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Douglas Carswell's Blog

31 DEC 2009

Wiki-politics, DirectGov and the wisdom of crowds

The government is to spend £1 million of your money on TV ads to promote its own Directgov website. Surely the whole point of this internet thingy is that it doesn't require large, corporatist ad budgets like that?

Not so, says Directgov's (taxpayer funded) head of communications. In fact, he tells us, "Directgov will save the government £400m over three years. Therefore this is an investment". So there. You've been told. By an official.

There's one thing politicians need to understand about the web; it doesn't need politicians to make it happen.

If, for instance, one was looking for ways to harness the wisdom of crowds to formulate policy, take a look at what's already there.

Log onto http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Great_Repeal_Bill, for example. See? No government money involved.

The web architecture already exists for wiki-politics. It's the bit in SW1 that's holding things back. Politicians should concentrate on making Westminster properly responsive in order to allow wiki-politics to happen, not on web design.


30 DEC 2009

Best MP?

Yoosk.com is running an online poll to find "Britain's best MP". Ludicrously, they've short listed Lib Dems, three Labour, and then myself - the token Tory.

See the short list at www.yoosk.com. Only some sort of warped Guardianista would think it a fair and proportional sample of our legislators.

That aside, should one really be encouraging readers of this blog to vote for me? In 2009, I'm not sure "best MP" is an accolade one should aspire to.

What counts is how my constituents vote in 2010. Not how everyone else might vote on www.Yoosk.com in the last week of 2009.


30 DEC 2009

Watched Day of the Triffids last night....

See what happens when government tries to avert global warming by encouraging big corporations to farm triffids?

Still, at least in the BBC re-interpretation of John Wyndham's classic novel, they weren't so daft as to manufacture sulphur dioxide and pump it into the upper atmosphere. Which is what some climate "experts" are now advocating....


29 DEC 2009

Who elected Kier Starmer?

It used to be the case that elected law makers made the law, judges interpreted it, and public prosecutors brought charges on the basis of it.

We've seen how judges increasingly like to interpret what they think the law ought to be, rather than what it is. They do so citing all manner of texts and charters, rather than primary law made by people you voted for.

Now it seems the chief public prosecutor, Keir Starmer, isn't content to leave law making to elected legislators either. He's announced his opposition to changing the law in favour of home owners protecting their property from burglars.

The law regarding intruders "works very well", he pronounced on Radio 4. Why? Well, he continued, CPS officials very often did not bring prosecutions where a householder had used force because it was judged that no jury would consider it unreasonable.

Ponder that carefully. In other words, CPS officials seem to be determining guilt or innocence without cases coming to trial. Isn't it for juries to make that call?

Surely, whatever you think about the rights of homeowners, it is for Parliament to determine the law, and juries to determine guilt, not for Mr Starmer and co? Perhaps if the CPS wasn't second guessing juries, we'd see for ourselves that the law is unsatisfactory, and demand change.

The last century saw a steady erosion of many of the democratic checks and balances that under pinned our justice system; grand juries abolished, trial juries curtailed or scrapped in certain instances (thin end wedge?), quango control over local constabularies, elitist judicial activism.

Perhaps this century requires a counter revolution to make the justice system answer to ordinary law abiding people like it used to? How about elected public prosecutors? It seems to work elsewhere.


28 DEC 2009

2010 predictions; political pendulum stays broken

Traditionally, when a governing party loses support, the principal opposition party has tended to win popularity by an almost identical margin. This pendulum effect meant that Labour's loss was the Conservative's gain - and vice versa.

Numerous bemused commentators think as if the pendulum ought still to exist. Many politicians act as though its see-saw effect remained with us.

At the 2005 election, most of Labour's lost votes didn't go to the Conservatives at all. In 2010, making certain that Labour unpopularity translates into Conservative support means not just giving people positive reasons to back us. Nor is it enough to say what we'd like to do. We need to give folk some indication as to how we'll actually be doing it.

In this age of anti-politics, the tactics of triangulation increasingly won't work. Too-clever-by-half positioning leaves voters cold. Never assume that just because a voter loathes the other lot, they've no where to go but to you.

So what'll be the magic glue needed to bind together that broad, election winning coalition? Authenticity.


28 DEC 2009

Steady as she sinks ....

Apparently Ed Balls is back in favour with 10 Downing Street, but Peter Mandelson isn't.  Or have I got that the wrong way round?

May be it is Harriet Harman that's on the up, and Douglas Alexander that's on the way down?

Who cares. 

Being elevated by Gordon Brown in 2010 is going to be a bit like winning a promotion on the Titanic.


27 DEC 2009

2010 predictions: higher inflation

Forget talk of deflation. In 12 months time, the pound in your pocket will buy you less than it does today.

Why? Inflation is caused by too much money chasing too few goods and services. And government has been conjuring up lots and lots more money.

Every time they magic into existence another squillion quid (bank bail outs and quantitative easing et al), the quids that belong to you are worth less than they were.

Government spokesmen will act hurt and surprised as inflation erodes you wealth. But remember; conjuring up more money is how government, free from legislative accountability, always inflates away its debts and redistributes wealth from you to them.


25 DEC 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Best wishes to you and your families.

Blogging will be light today, as I've brussel sprout duties to attend to. (Also, I've not worked out how to okay comments from where I am, so apologies for the slight delay in them appearing!)


24 DEC 2009

Dame Paddy Ridsdale

I went to Paddy Ridsdale's funeral at St Mary The Boltons yesterday.

For almost four decades, Harwich returned her husband, Sir Julian Ridsdale, as our local MP. They were very much a political double act, Dame Paddy doing so much of the constituency case work. It's a measure of quite how effective she was that almost two decades later, constituents still talk fondly of what she did to help them.

Margaret Thatcher, who Sir Julian did so much to support, was there too.

As we sang "The day thou gavest", I reflected on the fact that Sir Julian and Paddy together won ten General Elections in this constituency in a row. While I won by a mere 920 votes in 2005, Sir Julian bequeathed a majority of 15,000 when he stood down in 1992.

The thought put me in my place. I hope to be as good a constituency MP as Sir Julian and Paddy were.


23 DEC 2009

Why politics?

 Yoosk is running a competition to find "Britain's best MP".  Half a dozen politicians on the short list get to explain why they stood for election in the first place. 

Me? I explain that I'm in politics to make sure that there's less of it.  Get politicians off people's backs - and out of their wallets.

Too many politicians are in politics to run / supervise / regulate / oversee things for us.  (When did we ask them?)  Stop the quango state running folks lives.  Let people run things for themselves, or locally in their communities.

Imagine if politicians ran supermarkets?  There'd be catchment areas for breakfast cereals and waiting lists for bananas.  Like they run education, in fact.

Have a listen, decide which answers you like best, then vote here.


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