Direct Democracy… a Possibility?

I received this tweet yesterday, after slagging off Meg Hillier MP and posting my rant reply to her group email:

@Saronimo Hi – I’m your local independent candidate.
Fed up with an MP who ignores her constituents?
Check out my site: http://getavote.org

So naturally I decided to check out the website of a local independent, Denny de la Haye. Seems quite interesting: he pledges to implement a constituency wide ‘referendum’ for each instance where he is called to vote in Parliament with 3 exceptions: he will always vote for laws that 1. Improve equality, 2. Improve civil liberties and 3. Improve democracy.  Well who wouldn’t, right? *Cough* #DeBill *cough*.

This greatly improves on the current voter power of the constituency to which I belong which is, according to this website 0.039% and, assuming that I’m either voting with the mobile vulgus or Denny de la Haye himself (in the case of the mob voting against democracy, equality or civil liberties), would mean being part of a Shoreditch-wide ‘direct democracy’.  How very Bohemian.

This got me thinking. With the prevalence of the Internet in the second decade of the 21st century, this kind of electoral reform could work – the kind that utilises the power of this world-wide, instantaneous, ubiquitous communication tool.

There would be an issue, of course, of proving your identity when it came to casting your vote. No more, in reality, than there is currently. (Turning up to the polling station with your voting card is hardly foolproof!) Just as an example,  we could all be provided with a polling identity number which we would use to log onto our local MP’s secure server along with, say, passport number (NOT ‘ID card’ number – let’s keep cost to a minimum!) as a double layer of entry and voila! cast your vote. [Caveat: possibly not foolproof either, but I’m writing this in my lunchbreak!]

I’m sure every generation say this, but times have changed. Whereas the #Trafigura super-injunction against The Guardian was reported, (wiki)leaked and posted, re-tweeted, blogged about and generally disdained just in time for elevenses, a Parliamentary debate can last hours and predominantly consists of personal attacks and farmyard animal noises (the irony of which I’m sure escapes them). In other words 20 years ago it would have been impossible to undertake referenda in a country our size because of timing issues, but now: definitely not.

In short: we need electoral reform. Direct democracy should not be discounted.

Please feel free to comment and share thoughts on the practicalities/technical side of anything I have written!

I should probably say that, along with my (in hindsight) clear preference in my views on the ‘Science in the General Election’, I am not aligning myself with a particular candidate here. The search continues…

Reply (finally) from Meg Hillier MP on the Digital Economy Bill

After 2 emails to Meg on this issue alone, finally I get a group response. Please see below for the vague, non-committal, generic email.

Thank you for contacting me about the digital economy bill. Please accept my apologies for the group response. I have had a great number of e-mails about this bill.

I agree with you that the bill should have time to be properly debated in the House and I have raised my concerns about the timing of the progress of this bill.

When Parliament is prorogued (i.e suspended before the election) all remaining bills are put into what is commonly called the wash up. This is a process which requires both major parties to agree which bills they pass into law. Early signs are that the digital economy bill may be agreed between Government and opposition.

A number of people have also written to me specifically about the copyright of ‘orphan works’. I am concerned about how this part of the bill will affect photographers (professional and amateur) and I have spoken to the minister personally about this.

I have been reassured somewhat that even if the bill is passed next week, the measures effecting photographers need not be enacted in regulations (legislation after a bill becomes law to enforce certain parts of it) if photographers do not want it. This means that even if it’s passed, we can work to stop the proposal being enacted and I would take this up after May 7th if returned to Parliament.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about this issue. I will keep you updated with any developments.

Yours sincerely

Meg Hillier MP

****** New: I replied today – see below:*******

Good afternoon Meg,

Thank you for your reply.

It is good to know that you are concerned with the timing of the progress of this bill. I appreciate you voicing your concerns and speaking to the minister personally about the issue of orphan works. I am glad to see that, after the second reading, clause 43 of this bill has been dropped, that was something that would further distort the balance of intellectual property in favour of those with deeper pockets.

Something I am still concerned about, however, is the amendment to clause 8. In particular, the wording: “…is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright”. One angle of the problem is obvious – the wording ‘is likely to be used’ could include sites like wikileaks, as argued by John Hemming at th second reading, or even sites which have *not yet* committed copyright infringement. (I’m sure I don’t have to quote article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or even use the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’.)

The other side of the coin is the growing number of free anonymity software available. I’ll leave you to research these in your own time, but these essentially mask IP addresses in different ways and are widely available and will have the effect of send illegal downloading underground. (This is an important factor as to why any monitoring of Internet activities is not only a breach of human rights, but a pointless and very expensive waste of resources).

As you said yourself, many people are upset by this, and also feel very strongly about it (please see WWW.TWOMONTHSNOMUSIC.BLOGSPOT.COM for more details, this is a blog written by Patrick (twitter handle @patrickolszo) that I found through reading other people’s views on twitter. He is a music fanatic has decided to boycott music for 2 months as a personal protest to the digital economy bill.)

In light of your comments and assurances that you were worried too, I’d like you to explain to me why you did not attend the second reading of this bill, please? You said in your email that many people had contacted you about this bill; you said yourself that you were concerned and worried by the timing and the fact that you were not able to debate it in Parliament and so this leaves me with a sense of confusion as to why you were not present.

I should remind you that you work for us. You are our elected representative and I question your ‘sincerity’ that you did not turn up to a reading of a bill you know provokes strong reactions in the constituency. This is fast becoming an election issue for many, especially of the younger generation, and so I welcome your explanation.

Yours sincerely,

Saronimo
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