The Labour Manifesto: Reaction

12 04 2010

Today Labour launched their Manifesto for the 2010 General Election.

Labour provided us with a late (and, frankly, slightly unexpected) lurch towards the post-bureaucratic agenda in recent months. Data.gov.uk, digital inclusion, and Brown’s ‘digital economy’ speech have largely outweighed the Digital Economy Bill saga, and positioned Labour as a nascent post-bureaucratic party.

Their manifesto also contains a few hints in right direction. First, as William Heath noted a small step in the direction of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) over at MyDex:

“We will explore how to give citizens direct access to the data held on them by public agencies, so that people can use and control their own personal data in their interaction with service providers.”

There were a number of other very positive soundbites for the PBA agenda, even if they were light on detail. A post-bureaucratic agenda should be adaptive, flexible and localised, so a lack of detail isn’t of itself ‘wrong’. How far you believe any government will act in pursuit of laudable aims is subject to personal interpretation.

Bits we liked:

“We will now publish a Domesday Book of all non-personal datasets held by gov’t…with a default assumption that these will be made public” This is very similar to the the Tory position, but does not go so far as our call for a Freedom of Data Act.

“Citizens should be able to compare local services, demand improvements, choose between providers, and hold government to account.” This is absolutely fundamental to moving government into the post-bureaucratic age. It is interesting that Labour have chosen to frame the policy in terms of competition and accountability, when they might just have easily pointed at the PBA’s potential to empower people to combine local services and develop the role of the third sector – rather than just extracting the maximum value from suppliers.

“We will open up government, embedding access to information and data into the very fabric of public services.” This is perhaps the most encouraging language we have seen from Labour that they have come to terms with what the PBA really means (or could really mean) for government. The phrase “embedding access to information and data into the very fabric of public services” is an elegant explanation of the first step of post-bureaucratic government.

Bit we didn’t like:

“We will update the intellectual property framework that is crucial to the creative industries and take further action to tackle online piracy.” You can almost hear the record industry’s lobbyists’ whispers in this line. The Digital Economy Bill fiasco was bad enough, but to validate and then threaten to build upon it suggests that Labour may only support an agenda as far as a union or vested interest will let them. Unsavoury.

“Digital government also demands digital inclusion. Sowe will build on our network of UK Online centres and public libraries to spread free internet access points within the community, and develop new incentives for users to switch to online services.” The single occurrence of ‘digitial inclusion’ within the 76-page manifesto; no commitment to spending; no suggestion about the kind of ‘incentives’ that might be used. This simply does not stack up for a party that also wants to “save money for taxpayers as we switch services over to digital-only delivery”. The ‘digitial divide’ is very, very real, and Labour have moved digital inclusion into the ‘nice-to-have’ category. Internet access is now a fundamental utility, without which a child growing up the UK will suffer. As usual, the poorest and least-educated (who need and could benefit from it most) are in danger of being left behind.

Ali Unwin ( @aliunwin)

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2 responses

12 04 2010
chrisconder

thought it was a scream that on top of the BIS cockup about IP addresses some fool puts out a manifesto with a promise of a 2 megabyte connection for rural people… its obvious they don’t know a bit from a byte?

15 04 2010
Hy

For the greater performance in the level of prediction about the future that will give you Domesday Book so go for it asap.

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