Warning: This post contains pornographic words


Apparently few things matter more to David Cameron than protecting children on the internet. Perhaps he’s planning to increase the funding available to tackle online child abuse, which would be useful. Apparently not, which is a pity because Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

opacity-toolset

So what is David going to do to protect children on the internet? Nothing very useful as far as I can tell. In fact, probably the opposite. The internet, like life, is complicated. In the simplest terms I can think of, the internet is not safe for children, but actually that’s ok, and is no different to a lot of other things.

You wouldn’t expect young children to be using a chainsaw on their own, but you would also find it pretty difficult to cut a tree down with plastic safety scissors. You wouldn’t expect older children to use a band saw on their own, but it would be ok if they were supervised while learning to use one safely.

I would agree with the suggestion that parents aren’t given enough help, but a ‘one click’ on/off filter on a shared internet connection is really really not the answer. You need lots of tools; maybe playpens for the very young, corner protectors when they can walk, right up to an idiots guide to the internet for older politicians!

Aside from the fact that blocking and filtering just tend to annoy people who are trying to access perfectly legitimate content, and MPs haven’t even really defined what they want to block, there are downsides to creating a UK intranet. There are already more than enough places with over zealous filters, like O2 and Orange, or libraries, and there can already be real financial implications to manipulating search engine results with no transparency or oversight.

Perhaps even this post/blog has been blocked. Ok, the world wouldn’t be much worse off in that case, but I am more concerned about other sites which are likely to be blocked unintentionally, especially now that I have a child. You see, it’s not quite as simple as the Prime Minister makes out. I may face some very tricky conversations as my child grows up, and they would be more difficult if they and I aren’t able to search for information and support. I had naively assumed that banning rape porn would be one simple thing that everyone would agree with, but even that subject isn’t quite as straight forward as you would hope. I hope that reading challenging articles about difficult subjects will prepare me for being a better parent. I know that a web filter won’t.

I’ll be holding on to unfiltered internet access as long as possible.

(Of course the internet isn’t the only place children might see porn. I assume they’ll be announcing a filtered version of the Sun tomorrow…)

Photo © Anne Petersen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter


Thanks to 38 Degrees handy email the candidates page, I decided to to stop waiting for random leaflets to drop through the door. It’s certainly helped me narrow down the options- after all, if they don’t reply when they want something from me (my vote) what are the chances of getting a response when they’ve been elected.

I didn’t get quite the same response rate as the Hedge End Blogger but surprisingly, especially given the short notice, almost half of the candidates actually replied. The next few posts are from the candidates but first, here are the questions (in no particular order!)

From: James Taylor – Hedge End
To: Colin Bex – Wessex Regionalist, Danny Stupple – Independent, David Bishop – Elvis Loves Pets Party, Daz Procter – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Diane James – UKIP, Dr Iain Maclennan – National Health Action Party, Howling Laud Hope – Monster Raving Loony Party, Jim Duggan – Peace Party, John O’Farrell – Labour, Kevin Milburn – Christian Party, Maria Hutchings – Conservatives, Michael Walters – English Democrats, Mike Thornton – Liberal Democrats, Ray Hall – Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party

Subject: Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter

Message:

I will be voting in the by-election tomorrow unfortunately I have not yet heard from all the candidates, and the candidates I have heard from have not addressed all the issues that are important to me. Please could you answer the following questions to help me decide who I should vote for:

1. What are your views on equal rights, for example do you support the introduction of gay marriage?

2. I am very concerned about the introduction of secret courts as part of the Justice and Security Bill. Would you oppose the introduction of secret courts?

3. In my view MPs have a poor track record on technology issues, for example the ill-considered Digital Economy Act, which my last MP was unwilling to discuss. What are your views on repeated attempts to introduce a snoopers charter?

4. Do you agree that it would be easier to reduce dishonest and corrupt business practices if there was more transparency in company relationships and ownership? How would you tackle this issue? For example, would you back legislation to crack down on non-trading companies?

5. Can you promise to fight to protect NHS services both nationally and at our local hospitals?

6. Would you support any changes to the current laws on abortion and, if so, what changes would you like to see introduced?

7. What role do you think an MP has in local issues? What will you be able to do to help resolve issues like planning that other locally elected representatives are not able to do?

8. What measures would you take to promote green technology and to prevent climate change?

9. Do you have a by-election manifesto where I could find out more about issues that are important to you?

10. Do you intend to stand in future Eastleigh parliamentary elections?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Please let me know if you would prefer me not to publish your responses on my weblog.

Good luck tomorrow.

Thank you to all the candidates who replied– you’ve made it through to the final round of voting tomorrow!

If anyone else is still having trouble deciding, there is also a 38 Degrees by-election hustings video.

Another uninspiring election


Looking for Beer, Baccy and Crumpet party? Thanks to Ray for pointing out that their manifesto is now online!

Despite having twice the number of candidates, I think I may have been a tad optimistic to think that this election would be any more interesting than usual.

Being 2013 unable to adapt, almost all the parties are effectively engaging with voters using a variety of social media tools pushing tons of leaflets through doors. So far I have one letter and one leaflet from UKIP, three leaflets from the Conservatives, five leaflets from the Lib Dems …and nothing from the other candidates. The other candidates shouldn’t be too concerned though since:

  • I don’t want a free booklet about how many people will move here from Romania and Bulgaria
  • Everyone seems to be fighting to save our green fields
  • The Lib Dem leaflets are as infuriating as ever (that rant will have to wait for a future blog post!)

I have actually found a few of the candidates amongst the people talking about the election on twitter. It wouldn’t be a huge loss if they weren’t though- not exactly much substance, more:

  • where they’re canvassing (need to do a uksnow style map for this in time for the next general election!)
  • what the weather is like
  • how great their support is
  • how busy their HQ is
  • who’s interviewing them

In just two missed opportunities:

  • John O’Farrell revealed that he spoke about local issues to Ed Milliband, just not what those issues were
  • Maria Hutchings is against building on green fields in Botley/Boorley green but less willing to engage in discussions about where the houses might go instead (I actually thought Maria’s twitter stream was reasonably good before the election- maybe she’s too busy knocking on doors to tweet now)

As for everyone else on twitter, today seems to have been mainly:

But what about the other candidates? There are plenty of them but finding out about them is not quite so easy. Maybe if I lived in the centre of Eastleigh, I’d know more. Luckily, Eastleigh News has some articles, including one for the Beer, Baccy and & Crumpet Party, and The Independent has a brief introduction to some of the lesser known candidates. Even better, Matthew Myatt has managed to record a few interviews with the candidates, including Howling Laud Hope.

All of which makes for a pretty miserable choice. So far Laud Hope is most likely to get my vote! If I get time, I’m planning to try out the 38degrees email the candidates form to actually try and extract some useful information to base my vote on. In the mean time, if you are a candidate, please feel free to leave a message below!

Update: most people seem to find this post while looking for the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet manifesto so added link to their manifesto! (22 February 2013)

Anyone can win here!


Well it turns out you can resign from the House of Commons, so if I was crazy enough to stand in the by-election I wouldn’t have to break any manifesto promises! (Even when it comes to resigning those weasily MPs have to bend the rules ever so slightly to get round the slight inconvenience of not actually being allowed to resign, which I guess isn’t a huge shock.)

The Eastleigh by-election should at least be a little more interesting than the last general election and, finally, I’ll get the chance to vote Monster Raving Loony! If there don’t turn out to be any better alternatives that is- at least it’s marginally less pointless than spoiling a ballet paper for a change.

I was wondering how the local Lib Dems might adapt their irritating campaign tactics for the by-election. The result won’t make any difference to which party is in government, and that’s already a coalition of the only two parties who can win in Eastleigh. Well, it appears that old habits die hard. I do hope they’re wrong; it would be so nice to have a change!

So far it looks like we can expect a massive seven candidates to stand but I’d still like to see more independents. There’s not long left to get nominations in but if anyone needs help with signatures, please get in touch!

Apathy


I’m finding it very difficult to get any enthusiasm for the election. Every day there’s another campaign leaflet to add to the pile…

…often more than one, but they just aren’t helping. (Two more arrived as soon as I took that photo!)

Going by the number of leaflets, you would think that the Lib Dems are the most keen for my vote with around 18 so far. Sadly most of them just put me off voting Lib Dem, and I’m still waiting for a reply to my letter to Chris Huhne.

If I was voting based on quality of campaign leaflet content, the Conservatives would be ahead by a nose. Only five from them but on the whole they are much more positive and go in to more detail. Entertainingly, their major negative streak is about the dire consequences of a hung parliament, which includes a claim that financial experts predict a fall in house prices. Excellent, a hung parliament is sounding better than ever, sign me up for some of that!

Labour have managed to deliver a grand total of zero leaflets. Well, saves me the effort of moving them from the letter box to the recycling bin. Have enough to fill that up already.

UKIP and the National Liberal Party (that name just reminds me of a scene from the Life of Brian!) are tied on one leaflet each. Plus we also got a random leaflet campaigning against a hung parliament. I had been planning to add leaflets to TheStraightChoice.org but with my new found apathy I haven’t got very far. I did add one scanned by a colleague after he got a leaflet from the only independent candidate standing in Eastleigh.

Perhaps all the campaign posters are supposed to get me more excited about voting. They tell me a huge amount about what the parties stand for don’t they? Still, there is some entertainment from the, ‘who moved my sign’ squabbles. I had thought that the Lib Dems were going to win the prize for most signs, with the Conservatives taking gold for largest surface area, but after the Lib Dem banner appeared on the M27, there’s still everything to play for. (I’d love to know what the local council would have to say if residents stuck up random signs the rest of the year. Perhaps we could all declare our favourite supermarkets to find out!)

All of this old style electioneering should be consigned to the history books by now with the dawn of the digital age. Elections 2.0 should enable candidates to really engage with voters. Early signs were promising, with four of my candidates having twitter accounts: @ChrisHuhne, @MariaHutchings, @LeoBarraclough and @raymondfinch. Sadly I wouldn’t recommend following any of them. Broadcast media seems to be more their cup of tea. (There is one local candidate who deserves an honourable mention for his Election 2.0 posters, not that I can vote for him unfortunately.)

In the past I have always been very keen that everyone should vote, but given the quality of the choices available I’m coming round to the idea that not voting may actually be the best option. (I do like the Nobody poster!) Some lucky people even get to vote for no candidate. In the end though, even if I don’t vote, I’ll be doing it in person; it’s not actually apathy, it’s lack of choice.

Is blindly sticking a cross on a bit of paper once every few years just an illusion of democracy? What do you think the chances of any real change are after Thursday? Whatever happens, the politicians are going to win.

Update: a couple of links that might help when deciding who to vote for: (5 May 2010)

  • Hedge End People have a General Election group and some of the candidates have responded to questions on local issues.
  • Unlikely to help the apathy, but this article has an interesting graphic view of where the parties stand, and how the three main parties have shifted over recent years.

So you want my vote…


Tomorrow morning I’ll be walking down to the local polling station and I still have no idea who to vote for. The first problem is finding out what the choice is, luckily the Eastleigh council web site at least has a bunch of PDFs listing who’s standing.

It looks like I’ll be able to choose from this motley collection for the European election:

  • British National Party
  • Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
  • Conservative Party
  • English Democrats
  • Jury Team
  • Liberal Democrats
  • No2EU: Yes to Democracy
  • Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu
  • Socialist Labour Party
  • The Green Party
  • The Labour Party
  • The Peace Party
  • The Roman Party. Ave!
  • United Kingdom First
  • United Kingdom Independence Party

There’s been barely any discussion about what the MEPs will actually been doing in the European parliament. I don’t need a European election to send a message to Gordon Brown (sorry Gordon, but I have just never been able to take you seriously as PM), and it seems fairly pointless to vote based on whether I think we should be in or out of Europe. I kind of like the idea of a pan-European party improving the system but I don’t know enough about Libertas to guess whether that’s what they’ll actually do. (And it will always be a guess, since I bet a few people were expecting a referendum from Labour.) The Jury Team idea sounds interesting but probably not that constructive in practice. Maybe if the party membership were the party whips, voting throughout the term of the elected MEPs in a kind of ongoing referendum… but I suspect people would get bored of that fairly quickly. The Roman Party is in with a chance of getting my vote if I could find out a bit more about Jean-Louis’ plans. (Not much out there, but I did find this leaflet.)

Possibly even less interesting is the council election, with only the usual suspects lining up:

  • Conservative Party
  • UK Independence Party
  • Labour Party
  • Liberal Democrat

Ignoring the Labour Party (who don’t even seem to try here, which is fine by me) and UKIP, the choice between Conservative and Lib Dem is hardly great. The two of them seem to endlessly blame each other for exactly the same local problems and say very little about real solutions. One slight difference is that the Conservatives just turn up at election time, which is I suppose at least efficient.

Oil, gravel, houses and the crematorium NIMBY moaning is just annoying. Hands up anyone in Hedge End who doesn’t live in a house under 40 years old, use a car and isn’t planning to die? No, didn’t think so. As for the tap in the council offices; it’s not for a kitchen sink (which would be a bit extreme), it’s a pretty sensible way to provide drinks for employees. I’d go on but I think I’m well in to ranting territory already. If I vote Conservative, it will be at least partly because they haven’t had the front to tell me that one of the other parties can’t win here. And if I vote Lib Dem, if will be at least partly down to @mpntod – more MPs should be connecting with people like Martin.

On balance though, I’m very likely to be voting Limbo.

That was a political broadcast on behalf of a grumpy old man. We now return to our normal service.