Paul Evans: Political Innovation


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Paul Evans: Political Innovation

  1. 1. Political InnovationA Very British perspective@paul0evans1 & @picamp
  2. 2. What will be covered here• A brief overview of UK political structures• Types of political innovation that have taken place in recent years• Broad themes for future democratic innovation• A discussion of issues that arise from this – Innovation -v- good democratic practice – Political culture
  3. 3. UK Political Structures - overviewParliament - Westminster• 650 MPs – 306 Conservative – 57 Lib-Dem – 258 Labour – Smaller nationalist & regional parties (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)• First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system with Single Member Constituencies• Very few small party/independent MPs• Strong Cabinet government – centralised• Un-elected House of Lords (it has been ‘about to be reformed’ since 1997) – Most ‘hereditary’ peers now gone.• Only incremental reform since 1688 (The Glorious Revolution)
  4. 4. Characteristics of UK Democracy• Highly centralised, but significant recent changes (Devolution, electoral reform)• Political Parties – very strong (slow decline of the two-party system)• MPs relatively weak, though Parliamentary Select Committees have gathered powers• No written constitution. Non-proportional representation. Un-elected second chamber (The House of Lords)• Ad-hoc arrangements – referendums, enquiries etc – ‘very British’• Parliament – conscious of low public esteem – defensive. ‘Feral’ political culture• Newspapers – very low levels of trust• Evolved – uneven and inconsistent structures• More anti-EU than most
  5. 5. Regional & Local GovernmentNations & Regions Local Government• Scottish Parliament (1999), • England, Wales & Scotland – Nationalists in government mostly weak regional government• Welsh Assembly (1999) currently • Mixture of County, Unitary, Labour dominated Districts. Part time paid• Northern Ireland Assembly (1998 councillors with long suspensions) ‘Power- • Some Elected Mayors sharing’ settlement (sectarian • French ratio of voters to elected divide) officials is 120:1.• London Assembly (2000) + • UK ratio is approx 2,600:1. London Mayor
  6. 6. The PastTHEMES
  7. 7. Political Innovations – 1993- present - themes• Moving existing political structures online – Councillors & MPs websites, official bodies sites etc – Using the web to make processes more efficient• Transparency in governance• e-Participation• Political organising and campaigning• Changes in UK political culture
  8. 8. Elected representative innovations• 1978: Parliamentary broadcasting (Radio – TV in 1985)• Freedom of Information Act 2000 (growing impact)• ‘Hacktivism’ (more on this later)• MPs expenses scandal – some crowdsourced investigation• MPs forced to publish expenses online (2009-10). More transparency• Some ambitious MPs – blogging, websites etc• Parliamentary Petitions - 2011 (a very British arrangement). E-mail campaigns (38 Degrees) – MPs hate this!• Previous government attempted to impose ‘e-democracy’ measures on local government without much success• Little appetite for online activity among local councillors• Mostly done-to rather than done-by
  9. 9. MPs onlineTom Watson MP Sir Stuart Bell MP• Interactive individual – • No surgeries for 14 years blogger, tweeter, gamer, • 100 unanswered phone innovation enthusiast calls in 3 months• Crowdsourced research • No constituency office or• New-media literate politics social media presence
  10. 10.• Not created by Parliament• Built by• ‘hacktivism’• Scraping Hansard – the official Parliamentary journal
  11. 11. Decentralisation: The problem“It may easily be foreseen that almost all the able and ambitious members of a democratic community will labour unceasingly to extend the powers of government, because they all hope at some time or other to wield those powers themselves. It would be a waste of time to attempt to prove to them that extreme centralisation may be injurious to the state, since they are centralising it for their own benefit.” Alexis De Tocqueville
  12. 12. Tony Blair on the‘Freedom of Information Act 2000’(To himself):"You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it."
  13. 13. The Transparency Agenda• Comes from the left and the right• Linked to wider ‘open data’ movement• Democratic problem: Only organisations with resources or convening power (newspapers?) can take advantage of transparency• Counter-argument: Crowdsourcing (sometimes), ‘gamification’ and ‘the cognitive surplus’ (Clay Shirky)• ‘Cloaked agendas’• Used to de-toxify The Conservative Party (‘The Nasty Party’). Transparency is a useful ‘opposition’ tool
  14. 14. Transparency – a political tool?The political left targets The political right targets• Commercial media – Murdoch press • MPs and MEPs (rivals to markets)• Business lobbies (BBA, TPA etc) • The BBC• Bad employers – workplace rights • Profligate civil servants (“The Post• Bankers & financiers Bureaucratic Age”)• Consumer rip-offs • Quangos that over-regulate• The Far Right (BNP, EDL etc) • ‘Political Correctness’• Conservative politics (party, MPs) • NGOs (“The Big Society”)• ‘Tax-dodgers’ • The Labour Party• Rationalism • Trades Unions – Homeopaths, Chiropractors, • ‘Benefit cheats’ – ‘libel’ censors • Climate change advocates – ‘climate change deniers’ • The EU in general
  15. 15. e-Participation?
  16. 16. Trench warfare within the political bubbleSo nasty… because the stakes are so low
  17. 17. Autonomy & Astroturfing• No high-profile leadership (often anonymous)• Anti-deferential. Not ‘respectable’.• Deniable – no formal links to political parties• Right: Ideological tool, lobbying & organising (often using established Conservative campaigners)• Left response: Autonomist. Direct action. Flexible and adaptable. Not usually friendly to Labour
  18. 18. Autonomists
  19. 19. Astroturfing
  20. 20. Clicktivism & HacktivismClicktivism Hacktivism• Twitter retweets & Facebook • ‘Civic hacking’ – creating socially sharing useful tools –• e-Mail chain-letters• e-Petitions • OpenlyLocal• Viral campaigns • Data visualisation• Facebook ‘like’ pages – ‘Save • Anonymous – attacking Africa!’ Mastercard for non-co-operation• 38Degrees – email campaigns with WikiLeaks targeting politicians – 950,000 • DDoS attacks & data-theft members • ‘Flashmob’ organising
  21. 21. Online politicsDebate, discourse & electioneering
  22. 22. 2010 Conservative election launch
  23. 23. Enter ‘’
  24. 24. Labour used it....
  25. 25. Other campaigns used it
  26. 26. Online political communities (a sample)• Guido Fawkes Blog: Right- libertarian, feral• Harry’s Place: ‘Revisionist’ left – pro-Israeli, anti- ’Islamofascist’• Slugger O’Toole – Northern Ireland – serious, conversational site in a conflict zone
  27. 27. Characteristics of UK eParticipation• More developed thinking around youth participation• Projects often reflect ‘cloaked agendas’• Petitions often led by pressure groups & media owners• Political class frequently wrong-footed – democratic implications of innovation not thought-through• Hacktivist-led projects have worked very well• Participatory Budgeting – genuine interest, politically neutral, expect some progress• Paradox: UK culture of deference (lack of) can create problems. Often cynical. Sometimes, the ‘unelected’ can briefly enjoy more trust than politicians.
  28. 28. Political Innovation: Opportunities• Open data: Crowdsource analysis – participation that sidesteps professional pressure groups• Co-design & collaborative authoring• Gaming and ‘the cognitive surplus’• Using analytics to gather intelligence
  29. 29. Political InnovationA Very British perspective@paul0evans1 & @picamp