21 March 2010

Couch politics

I've not been on any marches or attended any political meetings recently but I quick tram through my in-box this weekend reminded me of just how many campaigns I am currently engaged in from the comfort of my IKEA Poang chair.

All of these campaigns exploit web2.0 technologies to reach people and enable them to join in my, for example, signing petitions and email their MPs.

The Libel Reform Campaign is defending free speech that are under serious threat from our draconian libel laws. These are being used well beyond their original intent to silence critics who do not have the financial mussel to stand up to the large corporations.

Simon Singh's fracas with the British Chiropractic Association is the public face of the issue currently but his is only a symptom of a much larger problem that now has international cases seeking to bring libel claims in the UK because the chances of winning and the benefits of doing so are so much greater.

Similarly, the Open Rights Group campaigns to defend freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, consumer rights and creativity on the internet.

One of their current campaigns is against the Digital Economy Bill that is currently going through Parliament.

As it stands now, the Bill, if passed into law, will allow disconnection, web blocking and could well see the death of open wifi.

The internet is such a great resource because of it's openness, this bill would try to reduce some of this and make us all poorer as a result.

The Robin Hood Tax is trying to do what it says on the tin - take money from the rich to give it to the poor.

In this case the rich are the banks who started the recession and required bailouts from the Government just to survive but, just a year later, are making vast sums of money and paying a lot of it to themselves in the form of bonuses.

The proposed tax on financial transactions would only be 0.05% but could raise 100bn a year to spend on the poor, here and abroad, and to develop solutions to climate change etc.

It's a simple idea and one whose time has come with the (justified) unpopularity of bankers and the need to address global issues like poverty.

The Conservatives are warm to the idea so this is one campaign that has a real chance of winning.

Vote for a Change is looking to make our politicians more accountable by changing the way that we vote for them.

Currently the majority of MPs have little or no real opposition, only a few seats are marginal, and they have abused this position as clearly demonstrated by the expenses scandal.

There are lots of arguments on precisely which form of voting system we should move to but any change has surely got to be a change for the better.

Greener upon Thames is a local environmental campaign on one simple issue - stop the use of disposable plastic shopping bags.

I am amazed at how many of these useless bags are given out in my local shops without either the retailers or customers paying them much attention or any regard for what they are doing to the environment.

Reusable bags are easy to get (I have lots!) but are nothing like as popular here as they are, say, Germany or Denmark.

This is an easy problem to solve, we just need to motivate politicians, retailers and the general public to do so.

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