Could this new party affect voting in university areas?

Could this new party affect voting in university areas?

Can they repeat their Swedish successes here?

I’ve written before about the Piratpartiet in Sweden, but this week saw the announcement that the Electoral Commission has added to its register of political parties in Great Britain “The Pirate Party UK”.

For those not aware, this is an offshoot of the Pirate Party International which aims to reduce the burdens of onerous copyright restrictions (essentially supporting filesharing and reducing duration of copyright), combat the surveillance state, and support freedom of speech. The PPI is active in around 25 countries, but registered to fight elections in only a handful within the EU.

It is easy to dismiss new parties as having no chance of making an impact, but some do grow exponentially and succeed. The Swedish Piratpartiet recently won 2 seats in the European Parliament (they get the second only if Lisbon Treaty is ratified – although ironically, the Swedish party opposes ratification), meaning they outperformed the rather-better-funded Libertas across the Continent (who won a single MEP in France).

The background of the UK project is the technology sector rather than political campaigning, but the response they have got has seemed positive – the Telegraph today reports healthy sign-up of members and donations: by comparison, the Swedish party has become the third largest by grassroots membership in just three years.

The UK party’s leader, Andrew Robinson, told me that they would seek to run at the General Election, and would stand as many candidates as they could afford to support properly and will target primarily university constituencies because students are demographically more likely to file-share and to spend time and money online.

Robinson recognises that they won’t get anyone elected at the first attempt, but they want to steer the conversation towards their issue. Again, in Sweden, a number of smaller parties switched to the PPI position on technological issues in an attempt to stop the haemorraging of supporters to the new entity.

I find it curious that issues like Net Neutrality and Internet Regulation get so little play in British politics – the centrality of the internet to communications, media and consumer commerce is undeniable, and yet there has been little innovation in law, policy, or governmental structure to accommodate that: and innovations that are mooted tend to fill people with horror.

We are all aware of things like ISPs to help the government track all emails and calls, DRM software on downloads, Andy Burnham wondering out-loud if the Blogosphere should be ‘regulated’, and the rise to prominance of the Internet Watch Foundation. For those who missed it (most of us, I’d bet) Stephen Timms a fortnight ago was announced as the replacement for Lord Carter, whose Digital Britain report in June recommended … well, read the reviews.

I don’t know if the UK Pirate Party will meet their aim of retaining a deposit at the General Election – I suspect they might, though banking on emulating their Swedish comrades seems a little unlikely for the next couple of years. But by the European Elections of 2014, who’s to say what the British political landscape might look like?



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