It might be my naivety but I was surprised nay shocked at the ISPA Council meeting today. You must read all this post.
The informed betting is that the General Election is going to be on May 6th. The betting for the dissolution of Parliament is either the 1st or 8th April. Normally notice given is 6 weeks but I’m told that because the Labour Party is (allegedly) short of funds they only want a 4 week election campaign – eat yer heart out US of A. My bet is the 8th because they will all want a nice Easter break before the pitched battle to come.
The Government has confirmed that the Budget will be on 24th March (at 12.30pm for the detail minded – warm the TV up soon). Normally we might expect a week to be given for the media to digest and comment about what will presumably be a budget pitched to give us all as much of a feelgood factor as possible after the last year or two of financial hell/instability/crisis/disaster/nightmare/worry/prosperity (delete as appropriate).
That means that our rulers will have one week, the week in the run up to Good Friday (2nd April) to finish the business of the House.
The way it normally works is by the ”washup” process. This is where you should prepare to be shocked.
The whips of each party get together in a room and go through each Bill negotiating a quick settlement. Big decisions are made with no serious debate or technical consideration of the consequences.
The Labour Party will trade broad brush issues with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems based on the need for speed.
Unfortunately this means that Laws dear to our hearts (not) such as the Digital Economy Bill will live or die based on some horse trading done in a rush in a darkened room, somewhere in Whitehall, for the sake of expediency. We have run out of time for this legislation to be properly processed. It has only been debated in the House of Lords!!
This is a disaster for democracy. It is a disaster for you and me and every man woman and child in the UK and to be honest is something that someone should be brought to account for.
I realise this will happen automatically to many of the individuals involved because they won’t be re-elected. Lords of course will be unaffected. It is also highly unlikely that you or I can do anything about it in any other way and that most people in the UK will not understand the likely implications (regardless of which Bill we are talking about). It won’t play a part in the Election process.
So the process of Lawmaking, which can rightly take long months, nay years is going to be short-circuited because of the political manoeuvring before an election.
Mistakes are going to be made that will affect us all.
Now one of the main subjects of discussion on this blog over the last few months has been the Digital Economy Bill/aka Digital Britain. This is hugely important to UK plc. The way the Bill has been put together is a testament to the political skills of those in power. In fact you cannot but admire the political adroitness of Peter Mandelson et al. I wouldn’t want to come up against him in a life or death debate (which actually is where we are in some respects).
The Digital Economy Bill contains many sections covering a wide range of “digital” subjects. They are all important and some individual sections are variously more important to different political groupings.
The upshot is that whilst no single party agrees on all the aspects of the Bill they all want different bits of it to succeed and are therefore generally supportive of it as a whole.
It isn’t possible to say “we don’t like this bit, lets just do away with it and pass all the good bits”. It either all gets passed or none of it. That’s the way the system works and this Bill has been cleverly put together knowing this.
This is not good because some aspects, such as the reform of the radio airwaves, are eminently sensible and that no sane person would want to kybosh.
Unfortunately because of this rush some of the ill considered legislation such as that concerning online copyright protection will potentially be swept through, like lint sticking to a Parliamentary clothes brush. Fingers crossed!! Roll that dice!!! Not the way I run my business!!!!
Bad news all round. Bad news as well really, if they but realised it, for the rights-holders pushing hard for some kind of legal protection against copyright piracy (illegal downloading). The legislation will not work and the need to provide emphasis on reform of the business model of the creative industries will be missed in the fog of the election .
There is nothing you can do about this other than to vote with your heart. We are stuck with this system. A fixed term parliament along American lines might be the answer.
In the meantime the ISP industry, within which I and many readers of this blog work, has to get its act together. ISPs are key to the prosperity of the UK they need to work out a strategy for a Digital Britain that will be effective.
This strategy needs to be communicated to the Government of the day in a coordinated manner and not in the reactive way we have responded to the Digital Economy Bill. ISPs need to be driving legislation not scrabbling around defensively on the back foot.
My own views are that the Digital Economy Bill should be scrapped now but I need all the signatories to Wednesday’s letter to publicly say so as well and I doubt there is time left to do it.