Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has been a key player in the historic Parliamentary events of the last few days, but his view of its implications goes far beyond the Speaker’s handling of expenses claims. I wrote before about his challenging views at a recent Hansard Society event; he talks, very convincingly, about the need – or perhaps more accurately, the inevitability – of more open politics. Tellingly, in interviews yesterday following his Big Moment, he talked about ‘the era of YouTube’ (although that’s another story altogether).
He points us to an article in today’s Times by Danny Finkelstein, which articulates the Carswell thesis particularly well:
For what we are about to discover is whether, after this turbulent fortnight, MPs really get it. Or whether they simply don’t have a clue what has been going on… Mr Martin’s departure should be seen as the pivot between two very different ways of conducting politics. It should be seen as the final moment in the long, slow death of closed politics and as ushering in a new age, one that will grow slowly and from small beginnings. The era of open politics. The cause of this new era, and the need for it, is the information revolution… Large centralised political parties were created because of the existence of the mass media… But whether this system has advantages or not is irrelevant – because the information revolution makes its continuation impossible. The replacement of the monolithic mass media with a much messier, much freer market in information changes everything. The media is fragmenting and taking Parliament with it.
Of course, both Carswell and Finkelstein are long-standing bloggers: Carswell in particular did some interesting experiments (now abandoned) with ClactonTV.com (archived) and a TalkClacton.com discussion forum as far back as 2006. But it’s been fascinating to see online now being proposed instinctively as a solution to the current crisis. (And full credit, by the way to the Conservatives for their rapid creation of a Google spreadsheet, presumably with a nice and easy input form, for the publication of Shadow Cabinet expenses – not the first to adopt it as a publishing platform of course.)
We’re some way away from Carswell’s vision, as described in his book The Plan (co-written with YouTube star Daniel Hannan). But you’d have to say, the wind is blowing in his direction.