Last month I was privileged enough to participate in the annual House of Lords Chamber Debate. It’s the one time during the year when people who are not members of the House of Lords are allowed to sit on its benches and debate.
The worrying news from Turkey has made me think about the way in which the recent political machinations within the British Labour Party have been described (usually by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn) as a ‘coup’.
I’m sure the people who use that word do not mean to suggest that the 171 Labour MPs who want Mr Corbyn to resign are equivalent to soldiers with guns. But use of the word does imply that the manoeuvrings are anti-democratic.
I’m really enjoying Periscope, the new app from Twitter that allows live broadcasts direct from your phone. It was launched very soon after its rival Meerkat and has, I think, better sharing and comment functionality.
Both apps, however, offer something utterly compelling — a live window into someone else’s world. In 5 minutes on Periscope, you can jump accross continents, watching forest fires in the Rockies, a sunset over the Pont Neuf in Paris, dinner with a family in Pakistan, or a toddler in Canberra learning to walk. Its magic, in the Arthur C Clarke sense.
With other forms of communication, the most fascinating developments come when the users push the platform in ways the developers had not anticipated. For example, the @ and # functionality in Twitter was something developed by the users and not by Twitter. Continue reading “#Periscope needs a ‘handover’ function”
You probably know the message in question. It’s the one that has two pictures of the House of Commons side by side – one empty chamber, labelled ‘debate on welfare’ (or something like that); and another of a full chamber, with the label ‘debating MPs’ salaries’. The idea being that MPs are lazy and selfish.
I’ve just posted a comment on the article, and thought I may as well paste it here too. It fits very nicely with the counter-cultural ‘politicians aren’t all bad’ contrariness of otherofferings.
No, this isn’t a rewrite of the report where I change all Sir Brian’s recommendations to suit my politics! Rather it is
An open, linkable, HTML version of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press
Over on the project website I have published a short explanation of why I initiated this project. In short: I think in a modern democracy, publishing accessible versions of public documents is essential. Having a simple HTML edition of a crucial text such as the Leveson Report means that more people can read and engage with it.
I hope the site is easy to navigate. To view a particular chapter of the report the site visitor simply has to type the part and chapter number after the website address. So to visit chapter 2 in Part B, you would type:
My hope is that other people can take this project and run with it. All the HTML pages that make up this version of the report are available on GitHub, so anyone can download the files and host their own version of the report (here’s a handy ZIP file). I confess that the underlying markup (i.e. the raw code of each page) is not completely perfect, and I would welcome any help in polishing the pages. On GitHub, anyone can ‘fork’ the project and begin making alterations.
I have set up a mailing list. If the Leveson Report (As It Should Be) project is of interest, please consider subscribing. There are options to be notified of every change to the site files, or just major changes and developments with the project.
For fun, I’ve created a Twitter account, @LevesonAISB, which is automatically tweeting links to various sections of the report. I’d love it if someone helped me set up randomised Tweeting of sentences pulled from the document.
If the electorate cannot get rid of their representative outside of election time … I think its is only fair that the representatives cannot rid themselves of their electorate either.
I think a similar principle holds for monarchies. If the hereditary principle means that people cannot choose their head of state, then its inconsistent and wrong for the monarch to be able to choose whether or not they serve as head of state! If we allow blood-lines to play a part in our constitution then we have to accept whatever gaffe-prone idiot that genetics throws up… and that idiot is stuck with the populous too.
To my mind, a single abication undermines the whole idea of hereditary monarchy. Any country where that happens should transition to a full democracy with an elected or legislature-appointed head of state (I prefer democracies with a nominal, not executive president but I’m sure there are arguments for and against both models). I hope that the abdication of the Spanish King triggers a referendum that ends the anacronism.
In recent years, America has been blighted by the rise of an extreme and uncompromising strain of political conservatism. ‘Tea Party’ groups attack moderates within the Republican party, forcing primary challenges on incumbent senators and congressmen who either have liberal leanings, or who are otherwise willing to co-operate with Democrats in Congress and the White House. The result has been a legislative impasse, with the Republicans disengaging from the process of government by consensus. Earlier this year they almost broke the US economy (and by extension, the world economy) due to bloody minded intransigence.
Thank goodness we do not have that sort of nonsense happening over here, eh?
I worry that the deselection of Tim Yeo MP from his seat in South Suffolk might signal the beginnings of the ‘teapartification’ of British politics, too. Yeo is a senior and respected Conservative MP, chair of the Energy and Climate Committee. And yety his local Conservative Association has deselected him as their candidate for the next General Election. Speaking to BBC Radio yesterday evening, Yeo pointed out that he was a strong believer in climate change and voted for the Same Sex Marriage laws, socially liberal positions that angered the few hundred members of the South Suffolk Conservative Association. These opinions appear to have cost him his seat. Continue reading “Is this the birth of the British Tea Party?”
Readers of this blog will know how irritated I get with the quality of parliamentary and government papers online. Transcripts and other documentation are frequently uploaded as PDFs, as if the only thing a researcher or campaigner plans to do with the document is print it. The online version of the Houses of Parliament Hansard still retains references to columns and pages, and linking to excerpts of text is a laborious process.
So imagine my delight to see the launch of Say It, a new tool from MySociety. It provides a tool to put transcripts of debates, court cases, and official inquiries online. The tool has been launched with a searchable, linkable version of the Leveson Inquiry sessions.
It is this sort of thing that empowers grassroots campaigns and catalyses democracy. And by ‘democracy’, I don’t just mean voting, but the idea that citizens make the decisions together.
I have yet to post anything on Syria, and what the international response should be to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. This omission is mainly because I was away when the House of Commons voted on whether to join in with any military action, and I missed all the debates over the morality of intervention. By the time I began consuming media again after my time in a communications blind spot, the conversation had become about whether David Cameron and Ed Miliband’s political fortunes had been helped or hindered by the parliamentary vote. I was coming to the issue with fresh eyes and ears, and such parochial analysis felt incredibly crass and wholly beside the point.
For the past ten days, there has been much discussion about how our collective democratic experience of the Iraq war in 2003 has affected our political judgements a decade later. Clearly the sense of betrayal that many of us felt back then still remains. The brutal aftermath in Iraq, and our lengthy, corrosive presence in Afghanistan has made everyone wary of more military action in the Middle East. Continue reading “Thoughts on Syria”
The folk at the brilliant OurKingdom blog commissioned a piece from me on the next steps for Libel Reform. The crucial issue:
During the Parliamentary debates, the Government flatly rejected proposals to extend the Derbyshire principle to private companies spending taxpayers money. British citizens are therefore confronted with a looming democratic deficit. As private companies take over the running of prisons, waste collection, school dinners, care homes, and large swathes of the NHS, the space to criticise them is squeezed. By leaving the Derbyshire principle to the courts to develop further, the Government have introduced an unwelcome ambiguity into our public discourse, especially at the local level. It will be left to citizens to closely monitor how the big subcontractors behave in this area. Any hint that these corporations are stifling public criticism through use of the libel law must be met with a public outcry.