Last night, at the Convergence Conversation (Digital Economy Bill, Swan or Albatross) there was surprisingly unanimity across Telcos, ISPs and even Content producers that the agreement of the LibDems and Conservatives to the rushed compromise over the Bill had been a mistake. Their aim had been to get the Act out of the way so that the new government could concentrate on sorting out Public Finances before the IMF did it for them – but it was likely to backfire on all concerned.
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The “National Government” (whether Lib-Lab or Con-Lib) will need to occupy the largest even new intake of MPs while it does so. Instead of being set to work crawling over nonsense areas of public spend, it now looks as though a sizable group of the new intake may well seek to make their political reputations by exposing the nonsenses beneath the proposals on, for example, IPR rights and their enforcement in the digital age. Given that they will discover that the agenda is actually set internationally, whether in Brussel or at WIPO, the result will be “politically interesting”.
It will be even more interesting if the new MPs feel they have only a matter of months in which to make their reputations before they have to stand for election again – when the National Government collapses in recrimination. The root cause of the collapse is likely to be because it has been unable to organise credible, socially inclusive, on-line consultations in order to blame the voters for “difficult decisions”. The trigger may well, however, be something different – which also enables parties to claim their opponents are demonstrating lack of contact with voters.
Will the National Govenment of 2010 be the third British Government to be brought down by “Information Technology”? The second was when the press campaigns of the “Anti-waste league” led by the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, caused Lloyd George to support Geddes Axe and lead the Liberals into the wilderness from which they appear set to return, ninety years later.
The first (and bloodiest) was when the press hacks of 1642 produced lurid broadsheets on the “Sack of Brentford” and created the “flash mob” of Londoners which turned King Charles leisurely march to re-occupy his throne into the “battle” of Turnham Green. They may not have cared whether they were ruled by King or by Parliament but they did care about protecting their homes and daughters from drunken Northerners and Scotish rapists.
Will today’s voters similarly care about having their Internet connections cut off because …. ? Are the internetties willing to get out of their bedrooms and take action? Who knows?
The DEA has already united the National Union of Students and the Federation of Small Business, let alone community groups, the hotel and catering industry and museums and libraries. And we should remember that a similarly loose confederation of farmers, taxi drivers and independent hauliers organised over CB radio nearly brought down the government.
What is really interesting is that there is similar feeling across the entire EU. Is there the potential for a re-run of 1848 or 1968, the years of pan-EU revolution?
Will it finally lead to “forceful” action to address the “democratic deficit“.
Or will it merely lead to squadrons of digital pigs flying across my screen?