While we wait to see what the House of Commons probation debate brings this afternoon, it's probably as good a time as any to say a few words about what laughingly passes as democracy in this country. I notice the BBC are getting very excited about it and there's all sorts of stuff due to air on TV and radio over the coming weeks marking the 750th anniversary of Parliament:-
On Tuesday the 20 January 2015 - the 750th anniversary of what is widely recognised as England’s first Parliament, the Montfort parliament – the BBC will broadcast Democracy Day: a day of live events, discussion and debate broadcast from inside Westminster and the BBC Radio Theatre.
Across radio, TV and online, the BBC will look at democracy past and present, ask how democratic we are, and encourage debate about democracy's future. As part of the day’s offering, BBC Radio 4’s Public Philosopher Professor Michael Sandel will venture inside the Palace of Westminster and challenge an audience of MPs, peers and the public to consider what democracy really means. Sir Tim Berners Lee will talk to BBC News about the importance of open data and an uncensored web to healthy democracy.That bit by Tim Berners Lee is particularly relevant given that it seems the Electoral Commission has started putting the 'frighteners' on certain websites such as Guido Fawkes, and quite rightly it's resulted in a firm two-fingered salute:-
The Electoral Commission has written to Guido, ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice to provide them with “guidance” to bring them into line with the Putinesque provisions of the new Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.
Mark Ferguson at LabourList says
“It seems particularly bizarre (and that’s being generous) that there’s one law for “newspapers and periodicals” and another for “websites”. Perhaps the government are finding this new-fangled internet thing very confusing. We’re still working through what the most appropriate response is to this dreadful law – more worthy of a banana-Republic than a democracy – that clamps down on campaigning and free speech at a time when it’s needed most, election time. Whatever response we decide on though, we will not be submitting ourselves to any form of regulation that stops us from writing, reporting and commenting on the election campaign as we see fit.”
ConservativeHome’s editor Paul Goodman tells Guido whilst sorrowfully shaking his head, that he feels the site has no alternative, given the terms of the Lobbying Act, but to “run some pieces by senior Labour MPs during the election campaign”.
After ringing round it seems that other political blogs like the Spectator’s CoffeeHouse and PoliticalBetting.com have not being offered “guidance” by the Electoral Commission. Guido has written back to the Electoral Commission:
Dear Electoral Commission,
Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.
Yours in freedom,
Editor Guido Fawkes’ BlogGuido has no intention of registering with the Electoral Commission or reporting a penny of spending or anything else to them. This authoritarian law is a nonsense. If you read the guidance it should apply to newspapers.We haven’t just rejected statutory control of the printed press by one regulator for political control of digital media by another…There's no doubt in my mind that our Westminster politicians are extremely rattled by the power of the internet, precisely because it has the capacity to usher in a rather more effective democracy, and that's the very last thing they want. This example rather neatly sums up the issue:-