Recent E-democracy Articles

Was the Euro-result a flash in the pan?

by Mike Killingworth     June 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm

There was only one story following the recent elections to the European Parliament – the success of the parties of the far right (UKIP and the BNP). Unlike most contributors and commenters on LC, I have consistently argued that the votes for these parties should be seen as a bloc. Campaigning against the BNP – as the left and indeed the centre-right for that matter have focussed on – probably merely had the effect of shifting a few votes from the party seen as wingnuts to the one seen as (relatively) more respectable.

Some evidence for my view has now emerged in the form of a mega-poll conducted – apparently as the result of an internal commission – by the on-line pollster YouGov. I say “mega poll” because its sample size was over 32,000 – about twenty times that of an “ordinary” opinion poll. This large size was necessary to achieve enough BNP (and UKIP) respondents to make analysis of their views statistically respectable. As with almost all contemporary polls, it has been “weighted” to match the demographic characteristics of respondents to those of the population at large.

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‘Communities in Control’ – the bloggers’ consultation begins!

by Thomas     November 11, 2008 at 7:20 pm

A big thanks to all of you who volunteered to contribute to our series on the ‘Communities in Control’ white paper – it looks like we’re off and running!

Here’s a run-down of who’s been delegated to do what:
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Never mind about Parliament, Hazel: what about actually giving real power to real people?

by Stephen Tall     November 9, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Forget Hazel Blears’ ill-considered assault on ‘nihilistic’ blogging, in her speech to the Hansard Society this week: let’s consider instead her attack on politicians who live on ‘Planet Politics’:

… there is a trend towards politics being seen as a career move rather than call to public service. Increasingly we have seen a ‘transmission belt’ from university activist, MPs’ researcher, think-tank staffer, Special Adviser, to Member of Parliament, and ultimately to the front bench. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but it is deeply unhealthy for our political class to be drawn from narrowing social base and range of experience.

Few people will disagree with her analysis. Indeed, ‘The Rise of the Career Politician’ (Peter Riddell, 1993) and ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’ (Peter Oborne, 1997) has been the subject of two (very different) books. Much of the hand-wringing, as ever when hands are wrung, is overwrought: a narrow political class is not a modern political phenomenon. It’s simply that the narrow class which dominates politics has changed over time. continue reading… »

Responding positively to cynicism and Hazel Blears – volunteers wanted!

by Thomas     November 9, 2008 at 12:06 pm

There has been a concerted outcry online here, there, and everywhere about Hazel Blears’ attack on the the role of the blogging community since her speech to the Hansard Society earlier this week, but it strikes me that this exposes a massive irony in the dumbed-down manner of current political debate and it begins to take on the appearance of another headline-grabbing politician shooting themselves in the foot. How can she ever expect to foster greater engagement through the practical measures she ostensibly advocates, in her white paper ‘Communities in Control’, when she abuses and insults the contribution made by commenters and commentators in the blogosphere – aren’t we actually among the key groups of people to whom she should have made her appeal?

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Is this the end of the age of cynicism?

by Thomas     November 6, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Barack Obama has built enormous levels of goodwill in the manner of his emphatic election victory and claimed in the opening stanzas of his victory speech that it represented a triumph of hope over cynicism (“It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”)

In the enthusiasm of the moment, some commentators (among them the BBC’s own Matt Frei) went so far as to claim his victory has overturned a political consensus held for a generation: that negative campaigning is the only way to win – the lunatic assassination plot against Obama can be cited as one extreme example of the nature of reactions that may be inadvertently encouraged by negativity, and this may in fact be the best argument against negativism.

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Blears on Blogging–Cluelessness or Wilful Ignorance?

by MatGB     November 6, 2008 at 2:15 am

Hazel Blears today gave an intriguing, wide ranging speech on a number of topics that I found interesting, thought provoking and mostly agreeable[1]. Unsurprisingly, the media has chosen to highlight the minor area of the speech in which she is both woefully misinformed and completely inaccurate. It is, naturally, the bit in which she talks about blogging [2].

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Second Life event at Labour Conference

by Robert Sharp     September 20, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I’ve just had word that one of the SMF‘s conference fringe events will be streamed into Second Life on Monday morning. I know that politicians in the US have held events in Second Life, but we think this will be a first in the UK.

The event is titled Public Sector 2.0: How can emerging information technologies improve public service delivery? and will feature contributions from Tom Watson MP and Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft. Watson is the Cabinet Office Minister responsible for E-Government, and of course one of the first MPs to inaugurate his own blog.

SMF/Microsoft event at Labour Party Conference
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Fifth Estate or Democratic Tool?

by Robert Sharp     June 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

When we think about blogging and the development of human interactions through the web, it is easy to assume some kind of historical determinism. The Internet is one huge sandbox, with new blogs and campaigning sites being launched all the time. Most peter out (I’ve been involved in a couple of those myself) but others persist, and grow. This trial-and-error approach suggests that we are at least inching towards a more sophisticated and empowering blogosphere, which exercises more influence over politics and therefore the direction this country is headed.

The Blog Nation event earlier this week raised some of the key issues that the Left needs to answer in order to become more effective online. As I crouched in the front row of the event, rubbing my temples and trying to think of answers, the following thought occurred to me: What if this is all there is? By which I mean, perhaps it is impossible to become much more organized. I refrained from articulating this thought at the time, but it did seem a deft, if nihilistic way of avoiding giving an answer to some of the questions posed, above. Perhaps there is no historical determinism to any of this, and we are not destined to develop anything significantly more efficient than what we have now.

Now I don’t know whether I really believe things to be so hopeless, but if its true it may not be such a bad thing. Rather than grandiose ideas of the blogosphere become some kind of Fifth Estate, perhaps we should aspire to nothing more than another tool for the people to use in checking the power of the elite (both elected representatives and others who hold positions of influence).

Of course we should ask how existing bloggers and activists can work better together, but that is just oiling the machine, rather than inventing a new one. A more important focus is to try to increase access to the new information and opinion that is appearing online. Just as increasing literacy strengthens democracy and promote equality, so computer literacy can strengthen it too. So, my suggestion for the next open source campaignintroduce one relative, friend or colleague to blogging each month. This need not mean forcing them to set up their own blog. Instead, just a gentle explanation of the power of RSS, and the suggestion that they bookmark one – just one – of the fine sites listed here.

Ever so slightly longer version cross posted at my own corner.

Democracy: driving and drinking

by Justin McKeating     February 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Some people in this country, me included, believe there’s something pretty wrong with ‘democracy’ in the UK. It’s blown a gasket. It’s belching stinking pollution. It rattles and it bangs and threatens to seize up altogether at any moment.

Most people just stand around it, kicking the tyres and exclaiming, ‘nah, it’s alright, it’ll go round the clock another couple of times no bother.’ Jack Straw thinks it just needs another coat of paint and it’ll be sorted.

You get the impression that he knows what’s going on under the bonnet but doesn’t want to admit it to himself let alone those of us risking our lives by riding along in the death trap. It needs rebuilding or trading in, if we’re honest.
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Swiftboats and Fixed Terms

by Unity     December 28, 2007 at 2:49 pm

With the Christmas festivities safely concluded, I’ve decided to take a little time out from some truly excellent Christmas reading – Christopher Hitchens’ “Portable Atheist” is well worth the investment in book tokens – to tackle one of the most risible pieces of hypocritical political sophistry I’ve seen in some considerable time…

…Iain Dale’s ‘campaign‘ for fixed term parliaments.

Like Matthew Sinclair, I’m by no means averse to the idea of fixed parliamentary terms, but unlike Iain and other new found Tory converts to the ’cause’ of constitutional reform I actually understand the workings of the British constitution, in theory and practice, well enough to appreciate that the introduction of even a seemingly simple innovation, like fixed parliamentary terms, would require a significant restructuring of our entire constitutional settlement in order to prove workable, not least in necessitating a far greater and more substantive separation between the executive and legislature than has existed at any time since the English Civil War. continue reading… »

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