Wikilegislature

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

The Conservative Conference has come up with some corkers this year.

From Chris Grayling labeling Labour’s appointment of General Dannatt a gimmick, only to find it was his own party doing the hiring; to Cameron’s multi-millionaire wife wearing ‘cheap’ shoes from Zara (she obviously hasn’t been to Primark), balancing out her vast designer wardrobe.

But aside from the gaffes, some policy proposed at the conference that could have huge consequences for democracy has largely slipped under the radar.

On Monday, William Hague announced a transformation to the way laws could be made if the Conservatives form the next government; voters will be given the power to alter bills that are going through Parliament. ‘Yeah, right’, ‘how?’ and ‘why’ you might ask.

But the idea was first championed by the President-of-New-Technology himself, Barack Obama, with a site called mixedink.com. So we shouldn’t shelve it right away just because it’s the Tories.

The website is supposed to allow voters to comment on and rewrite the broad principles of a bill, and individual clauses. Contributors would also rank comments so the most popular suggestions appear at the top.

The Internet is the most democratic platform we the people have ever had at our fingertips. And Wikipedia is the largest user-generated, collaboration the world has ever seen. It has over 3 million articles in the English version alone but has only been going since 2001.

I can almost envision a ‘Wikilegislature’.

But, despite the all-seeing-eyes of Wikipedia, its trusty cleaners and its charitable status, even it is open to ‘vandalism’; ‘silly vandalism’ and ‘sneaky vandalism’ to name but just two types of sabotage they see every day.

So even though the Internet opens up the discussion to those who want to contribute, so too does it open it up to anti-social people, who for reason or no reason want to slow everybody down.

In a country where the government has a crisis of legitimacy, where more people do not vote than vote for the winning party, this could give people a more tangible link with their legislature. Or, like the political process itself, people could still not participate.

Why wade through all the legalese and boring by-laws when you could be watching a weird American kid called Tay Londay sing a weird song called ‘Chocolate Rain’ in a weird voice?

Forty-two million of you already have.

Or the idea could just as easily end up in the spin-bin.

Speaking of spin, who’d have though the Conservatives could get Bono, “live from a satellite orbiting his own ego” (Russell Brand), beamed into their conference to introduce the main act?

Well, probably the Labour Party, who the Guardian alleges also had Bono featured in a video as part of their Brighton conference a week earlier.

We trust all the proceeds are going to charity.


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