U.K. – home of e-democracy?

by Maria on March 2, 2004

For a country with a better than average social welfare safety net, Britain still seems to enjoy plenty of social entrepreneurship. These days the UK is a seething hotbed of activity aimed at opening up the political process to the masses.

MySociety has just launched a blog-based website called Downing Street Says. It strips out into a readable format each topic covered in the Prime Minister’s spokesman’s daily Q&A with political correspondents, and allows the public to add comments. (BBC story here.)Official transcripts of the daily Q&A and the PM’s monthly press conference are available somewhere on the UK government website. But they’re difficult to find, published in long clumps of text, and of course have no comments sections. Downing Street Says has been put together by volunteers who simply want to make the process more open to the public, and it makes for an interesting read.

I’m still a bit on the fence about how much these initiatives really improve democracy, but hats off to the people who’ve used their spare time and talents to put this together. Also worth looking at is faxyourmp, and a whole slate of projects that MySociety is currently fundraising for. James Crabtree at VoxPolitics is an excellent source of information and opinion about developments in this field.

Now if only someone would take on Hansard…



Tomski 03.02.04 at 3:41 pm

Kind words, thank you. We’re not sure how much these initiatives really improve democracy – after all, the audiences are small and often already have a voice.

However, a tactic of continuous prodding from the margins could eventually lead to a wider climate of change, even if the change itself is not an obvious cause and effect result of our projects.

And what, pray tell, would *you* do with Hansard?



Maria 03.04.04 at 10:53 am


On Hansard, oh, where to start? Making the thing properly searchable by MP, Committee, Bill, date, and even subject. Making it not spit back reams of unrelated text. Also, being able to find amendments proposed and rejected.

Somehow, miraculously, finding a way to stop Hansard telling me that debates I’ve attended never actually took place…

I’m no search technology expert, but I imagine what I have in mind would require advanced AI to have a hope of coming up with intelligent results. So I’ll live in hope!


pjc50 03.04.04 at 2:03 pm

You know, social welfare nets don’t automatically crush initiative and turn everyone into spongers. You may be surprised to know that even socialised healthcare is not incompatible with a functional English-speaking society, and the medical-educational complex does not crush all before it.

Sarcasm aside, you’re right that Hansard could, should and would work better as a blog. It would be wonderful if people could read it daily like blogs, or track MPs like livejournal users.

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