This last weekend, I attended the Big Tent Festival of Ideas and it was great.
The festival is the brainchild of George Freeman MP. It is intended to bring together people of all political persuasions to discuss ideas and how we can drive positive change. It is just the sort of thing that is so necessary in our current political times.
The festival had eight tents each covering different subject areas from politics to society to innovation. In only its second year, it attracted over 1,000 people and the atmosphere was one of friendliness and open discussion among people who may or may not agree about political issues.
It is how our political debate should be but, sadly, is not.
Among the best sessions were an interview with Nick Clegg and one with George Osborne. They showed the power of two highly experienced politicians who are no longer in office and are therefore liberated from having to speak in code and watch everything they say. Instead of the political blandness we are used to, we got honesty and good insights.
The liveliest session I attended was the one about the legalisation of cannabis. While most of the other sessions were interesting and cerebral, this one excited passion on both sides of the argument.
Another plus was that, intentionally, there was almost nothing and little talk about Brexit.
Some wondered why the most important issue facing Britain today was excluded. But it was a wise decision. We have plenty of discussion about Brexit everywhere at all times. And by excluding such a divisive subject, there was more harmony and civility.
My fear is that Brexit is going to keep dominating our political debate for the next few years. And that is not good for our politics, our society, or the civility that is such a central characteristic of this country.