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Email, Lobbying and a new Participatory Democracy

17 May

MPs are receiving increasing amount of email from users of 38 Degrees , a website which provides the ability for members of the public to MPs en masse. The Purple Revolution campaign for Fair Votes made use of this service to let the strength of their feeling be know to Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs  on proportional representation. According to a 38 Degrees blog post they, “sent over 150,000 emails to the Lib Dem MPs as they started weighing up their next move [on who to form a coalition with].”

The emails appear not have have been received in the best of spirits however. One of the most socially-connected (though anti-PR) MPs Tom Watson tweeted :

Thks @38_degrees. Inbox now full. Why didn’t you check to find out the MPs that supported your proposition before spamming us all?

3 days later Watson added :

Hello 38_degrees. Just thought you’d want to know it’s taken me two hours to work out how I’m going to email 1700 progressives en masse ;-)

While I applaud Watson for engaging with the electorate so well on Twitter and understand his frustration at having a sudden deluge of emails, his sentiment is fundamentally misplaced.

At the moment, email is simply the most efficient method for members of the the general public who feel strongly about an issue to register their opinion with those who legislate. It is a method by which people without great wealth or privilege can lobby their representatives in Parliament. Big business can spend millions on lobbying legislators and the civil service to make law conforming with their interests. Such monetary resources are just not available to normal people.

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Wikileaks Needs Our Support

12 Feb

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for the University of Birmingham student paper ‘Redbrick.’ The original is available here.

When an ex-SAS offi­cer John Wick came across the details of MPs’ expenses claims, he con­tacted the Daily Tele­graph for pub­lic­ity. But what hap­pens when jobs, lib­erty or lives are threat­ened if cen­sored infor­ma­tion can­not be leaked anonymously?

Since 2007, Wik­ileaks has offered an online repos­i­tory for anony­mous whistle­blow­ers to upload doc­u­ments show­ing uneth­i­cal prac­tices by gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies. These doc­u­ments detail mis­de­meanours rang­ing from oil-traders Trafigura’s dump­ing of toxic waste off the West African coast to human rights abuses in China to the names of British National Party mem­bers includ­ing sev­eral police offi­cers, doc­tors and solicitors. Continue reading

On the Virtues of Coalition Government

5 Feb

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for the University of Birmingham student paper ‘Redbrick.’ The original is available here.

At some point before June 2010, Britain is to become an elec­toral bat­tle­ground. Polit­i­cal par­ties will be cam­paign­ing for our votes at a gen­eral elec­tion, with vot­ers poten­tially being swayed by issues such as the econ­omy and the MPs’ expenses scan­dal. How­ever, this elec­tion may be his­toric for the most unex­pected of reasons.

In Britain, one party usu­ally gains a major­ity of the seats in Par­lia­ment, mean­ing they do not need the sup­port of the oppo­si­tion par­ties to make laws. How­ever all this might change after the upcom­ing elec­tion. For the first time since the 1970s, there is a strong pos­si­bil­ity that no sin­gle party will gain over­all con­trol at West­min­ster, result­ing in what is known as a hung parliament. Continue reading

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