Digital Economy and the Pains of Democracy

I’ve just finished watching this evenings debate, votes and reading of the DEB. I’ll admit that I had lost hope a few weeks ago of this bill being voted down, but some things became clear as I was watching this evenings proceedings.

It’s bloody confusing.

I don’t watch BBC Parliament that often, but I’m usually capable enough of following what’s going on. But as this evenings clauses were being voted on I a admit to struggling keeping up with which clauses were which and at one point both @thehodge and I were wondering what on earth was now being voted on and whether the desired response was yay or nay. The whole process is wrapped up in so many layers described as “tradition” and “process” that from the outside, it looks completely archaic and more about posing than genuine debate. Many of these layers also take up time, precious time.

The numbers didn’t add up.

189 aye, 47 against. There had to be … 40 in that chamber at most? I believe the other 190 odd were hanging around outside. If this is so, why did they not partake or at least sit in on the debate? 20,000 people wrote to their MPs – at least some of those outside must currently represent some of those constituents. Did they not feel it part of their obligation to partake on their constituents part? Or did they just not want to show their face on camera and be noted as present? Have we got a catalouge of who voted and who was present as we did for yesterday? I think this is a major failing of the system, that MPs can just turn up and vote, without partaking in any debate on the issue.

The house was packed earlier in the day for PMQs

BBC News photos show a packed house for what was nothing more than posturing and arse-waving. Those MPs were there then, where were they for the DEB debate? People are losing trust in their MPs for reasons like this. A friend wrote in his blog that politicians have “lost track of what is actually meant by trust” (I’ll link once I get permission). In the whole, we don’t care if you’re sleeping with a footballer’s wife or dating one of the cheeky girls. What we want is for MPs to take an interest in matters their constituents have an interest in, to engage the house on those issues and work for us. It still feels like, even after the whole debacle of the MP expenses that MPs are failing to understand that they are there to represent constituents. Constituents are not just a by-product. There is an election coming up – it would do well to remember that.

How many MPs actually understood the bill, or the implications of the bill?

Some of those that spoke clearly had no real understanding of technical, social or economic issues of the bill before them. A few did, and Tom Watson really must be applauded for being one of the few voices (along with around 20 others) who genuinely understood what this would mean in a few years time. As some of the blog have already pointed out this morning, certain clauses will certainly cripple aspects of a growing economy – the complete opposite of what this bill was meant to achieve. It fails to help promote potential new business models and revenue streams and actively works to support pre-existing industries. Clause 8 is potentially disturbing as we now have the potential for a “great firewall” of our very own. At least there’s the protection of a judge, but considering the way our current libel laws work I can see this heading in the same direction very quickly.

Something else which actually dawned on me is that if this is how the DEB bill is debated (an area I have at least some knowledge on, so therefore can comment from an informed position) – are other bills handled the same way? Are bills on energy or economics debated with the same lack of understanding by politicians, and then voted on by a horde dragged in by the party whip? Quite a log of those debating the DEB were only given one side of the argument – the statistics given to them by the record industry, which have been debunked time and time again. Is politics simply a case of those with the most money winning all the time by being the voice in MPs ears? That has horrible implications.

My MP is Ruth Kelly. Who didn’t turn up for the vote or debate. Unsurprisingly since she is standing down at the next election, as many others are. But until the election they’re still our MPs. I would have had a little more respect for her, irrespective of her vote, had she actually turned up to the debate.

There’s a general election coming up on May 6th. So far, I’m feeling “stitched-up” by all of the major parties. The party I had expected to stand up for my rights, the Lib Dems, failed to do so. Quite a few vocal Lib Dem supporters are also feeling rather stung and disillusioned with their own party. One blog post won’t make a blind bit of difference and I don’t really expect anyone of note to read nor take notice of this, but one hopes ever so slightly that this may be my Cesspool of the Potomac.