Along with several thousand others this evening, I watched something approaching six hours of live streaming from the House of Commons as the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill took place. I was appalled at what I saw, and to judge from the tone of the comments being posted on the Twitter backchannel throughout the evening, so were the majority of the onlookers.
The Digital Economy Bill touches on virtually every aspect of modern life, and has the potential to reverse basic fundamental principles such as the presumption of innocence that our society is built upon. It’s the result of unprecedented levels of lobbying from vested commercial interests. Their arguments are based on skewed figures that are demonstrably false. And the Government has behaved in a way that borders on contempt for the democratic process.
Put simply, if the internet didn’t exist, neither would my means of earning a living. So I am acutely aware of how the real digital economy works, and I am acutely aware that the Digital Economy Bill deals with none of the issues that affect me. It is written for and on behalf of the organisations that have failed to adapt their business models into the new environment. It is no more than a Canute-like attempt to hold back technological progress, and it will be about as successful in that respect as Canute was at holding back the waves.
So where were you? As my representative in Parliament, I needed you to be there to make my voice heard. And where were your colleagues? There was only a single Liberal Democrat in the chamber throughout the debate, and his grasp of the issues showed him to be badly-briefed and profoundly out of his depth.
Over the next four weeks, you’re going to attempt to convince me that I should cast my vote for you as my representative in the next Parliament, and that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote against the broken status-quo. That in the event of a hung Parliament, you would use your position to fix some of the most egregious flaws in our system of government.
But tonight I’ve seen nothing to suggest that this will be the case, and it leaves me profoundly disappointed in both you and your party.