I've taken the liberty of converting your comment into a new root article, because I think it'll get lost appended to the bottom of that very long other thread.
(To start a new thread, use the 'New Article' button on the index page of a particular area)
Generally speaking, any system's user interface is pretty important even though people will put up with some fairly awful ones if they perceive a value to the underlying tool.
A good designer is able to integrate the client wishes with all other constraints, and a great designer can revolutionise the perception of something (eg the way the original graphical user interfaces transformed the personal computer).
When it comes to web forums specifically, we're still in the early days of user interface design and the similarity of several competing offerings in this arena just shows that form tends to follow function.
I doubt whether there's a large enough sample of forums hosted by governments to answer the question of how aware the designers are of the political and democratic requirements beyond a few obvious issues. What do you think a baseline set of those requirements might be?
Yup, I was watching the beeb until about 3am and also checking a few dozen websites for a spread of opinion. I got the feeling that the beeb were pretty balanced overall, though I do wish they'd get someone other than Dimbleby and Snow to do these election specials.