Powerless examples of People Power

Saturday, 3rd March 2007 at 17:13 UTC Leave a comment

The good news is that some real people have been invited to talk policy at number 10 Downing Street. The bad news, other than that there’s only 60 of them, is that even one of the organisers, from pollsters IPSOS Mori, doesn’t believe it will change things. Basically, its a chance to look good for the government, without actually having to respond with policy changes. Even one of the participants is complaining that they “don’t see how 60 people in a room is going to have an impact on policy that is already decided”.

Blair’s appearance? On a recorded video. Radical democracy is something Labour seem to want to do without risking having to actually change anything. Look cool, continue as normal. Blair does, according to said article, concede that talking with real people is important. Pity almost every MP I question replied with a hollow attempt to dodge the question. Perhaps I just ask nasty questions. There’s also an air of patronisation in what Blair has to say; effectively ‘when we tell people why they should accept something, they eventually do’.

Admittedly the issue mentioned is the road tax, which is fairly complicated, because although its a good thing in one sense, its also an excuse to track people’s movements and so I don’t support the actual policy, even if I’m totally behind the idea in general. To dismiss 1.8million signatures as a mix of fake and naive is a good sign of just how much contempt for really letting the public drive change Blair has.

This comes at a very interesting time, perhaps not by coincidence. I read a report by a BBC Political commentator pointing to the sudden shift in online politics, especially around the roads petition. He identifies two worrying trends. First, political parties are creating websites which seem more geared to providing fanfare to their own rosy views of themselves, and second, though he misses the full point I feel, that online video sites are easy prey for those with cash to spend on their message. YouTube would be a wonderful level playing field if it were not for the fact that the rich are already throwing cash at projects which can outshine the humble peasants offering. Once again, free market vs free speech, free market wins on quality, people watch the quality stuff, free speech becomes a pointless exercise.

On the other hand, I’m possibly going to give the 2020 Vision website, set up as a space to debate Labour’s future, a test drive (if it doesn’t mean joining Labour!) and I’m quite impressed by what I have been able to see of the grassroots mobilisation available on one US Democratic candidate’s site (no points for guessing which).

That all said, it looks like those seeking democracy in Russia are having even less luck than we Brits are.


Entry filed under: Barack Obama, Participation, Politics.

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