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Power, corruption and lies

Me, writing about the Digital Economy Bill debacle:

You’ve got to admire the Digital Economy Bill. It made thousands of people pay attention to politics.

It encouraged thousands of so-called Digital Natives to watch live streams from the House of Commons.

It brought together writers and readers, bands and fans, designers and developers and creatives of every kind.

And then, slowly and deliberately, it dropped its digital trousers and waved its digital arse at the lot of them.

8 replies on “Power, corruption and lies”

What’s really depressing about all of this isn’t the Bill itself, although of course that’s a travesty. It’s that for the first time, thousands of us have seen how UK politics really works.

This reminds me of those people who, on seeing Schindler’s List, learnt for the first time about what Nazis did to Jews. I mean, it’s great if some people have noticed, but, seriously, where the fuck have they been their whole lives?

For me, what sums up British politics is the fact that backbenchers who piss of their party leadership will be “threatened” with the withdrawal of the whip. “If you don’t behave, we’ll stop telling you how to vote and let you vote how you like, based on what you believe. We really mean it!” And the “threatened” MP actually will treat that as a threat. What the hell is wrong with these people? To sane people, the withdrawal of the whip cannot conceivably be viewed as anything other than good. MPs fear it so much they avoid it at all costs — unlike, say, corruption, which they don’t seem to have much of a problem with.

What troubles me is the fact that it was saved as the very last bill for the session, held until the last two hours, and then rammed through with half the bill undebated for an artificial deadline. What if it had been a defence bill, or an NHS bill? Does this set a pattern where unpopular legislation will simply be withheld until the last possible minute?

It wouldn’t surprise me. By all accounts the wash-up is never normally used for controversial stuff. DEB proves that shoving big stuff into wash-up works.

Struan Robertson of Out-law says there are two things you shouldn’t see being made: sausages and legislation :)

> I mean, it’s great if some people have noticed, but, seriously, where the fuck have they been their whole lives?

Not paying attention to politics. You’d think after years of bleating about voter apathy and low turnout, MPs might welcome a whole bunch of new people taking an interest.

> MPs fear it so much they avoid it at all costs — unlike, say, corruption, which they don’t seem to have much of a problem with.

I have to admit, I’ve no idea how the whips system works. Other than telling MPs how they should vote, obviously.

>>By all accounts the wash-up is never normally used for controversial stuff.

The only controversial stuff that goes through routinely is the finance bill, but that’s because the law states that if it is not passed before parliament dissolves then they can’t collect income tax. That’s why that cider tax has gone through but will be cancelled in June – the bill’s already passed.

The only previous semi-controversial washup was the dangerous dogs act, but it wasn’t controversial in parliament as it had broad cross-party support.

It’s relatively simple. “The Whip” is a document sent out to all MPs by the Party Whip. If there is to be a vote, then a note is made that all members must attend. It is then underlined 1, 2 or 3 times and this is where the “3 line whip” comes from. There are three levels of whips:

One-line whip – suggested vote, non-mandatory attendance or voting.
Two-line whip – mandatory vote and attendance, however voting against the party is allowed. (if you’ve got permisson you can not attend)
Three-line whip – mandatory vote and attendance, sanctions may be imposed if vote against party. You have to have a really good reason not to attend.

The party line is indicated to the party just before the vote, usually with hand signals, so it’s not always a foregone conclusion, but it’s not recorded in Hansard.

If you defy a three-line whip then you could be expelled from the party entirely, but it varies depending on how embarrassing it’s been for the party. You obviously can’t be fired as an MP, but you can be dumped from the party and they’ll stand against you if you want to stand again.

It is very, very unusual for the 3-line whip to be used in matters of conscience, but it can and does happen.

When I learned about the 3-line whip I decided that I was not going to vote unless I believed that a candidate was one that I wanted to vote for, irrespective of party. Unfortunately, no-one did the whole time I was in Scotland and, down here, due to our far-right friends I’m forced to vote tactically for dickheads.

> When I learned about the 3-line whip I decided that I was not going to vote unless I believed that a candidate was one that I wanted to vote for, irrespective of party.

That’s a very good policy, that.

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