It can only be a good thing when a grassroots movement political party begins to gain traction, moving from the fringes to the mainstream. It's a slow process as the other parties try to make sense of the newcomers, some of them wary, others not really paying attention. As the Pirate Party starts to make itself heard in British politics, it's time we got to know more about them in order to find out if they're just a flash in the pan or they can actually achieve something.
The local elections are coming up on Thursday and the usual suspects have been lining up to get our attention and urging us to vote for them, as usual. However, this time there's a new political kid on the block; the Pirate Party. We've got our own UK version and these are the candidates being fielded for the local elections:
In Edinburgh - edinburgh.pirateparty.org.uk
Phil Hunt for Meadows/Morningside
Steven Bathgate for Southside/Newington.
In Glasgow - glasgow.pirateparty.org.uk
Finlay Archibald for Govan
Rob Harris for Anderston/City
Andrew Paliwoda for Hillhead
In Manchester - manchester.pirateparty.org.uk
Tim Dobson for Ancoats & Clayton
Loz Kaye for Bradford Ward
Maria Aretoulaki for the City Centre
The Pirates are running on the transparency, digital rights and copyright reform platform, believing that solving these problems would bring greater benefits to the country than the usual conservative-liberal-labour agendas.
Can idealism win over professionalism?
In an interview in Manchester Confidential, Dr Maria Aretoulaki, the party's candidate for the city centre, said, “This is not about fancy titles, fame and glory. I just want to give power to the people who, like me, live and work in Manchester city centre. I particularly want to give a voice to those Manchester residents who don't identify or agree with the Labour or Liberal Democratic policies and practices."
There is a precedent for idealistic or novelty parties gaining seats in the political arena, be it local or national, and actually making a difference.
Despite its satirical nature, some of the things that have featured in Loony manifestos have become law, such as being able to vote at 18, "passports for pets", and all-day pub openings. Similarly, the outcry following Alan Hope's appearance on the BBC's Nationwide current affairs programme after he was elected – during which he mentioned that butter and milk surpluses were being dumped down abandoned mine shafts under European Community rules to maintain prices (something the media of the day had failed to expose) – resulted in the distribution of such surpluses to the needy or charities instead. - Official Monster Raving Loony Party, Wikipedia
The Loonies haven't made the news since 2004 and the other parties have been moving closer together in policy to the point where they are sometimes indistinguishable. The Greens haven't got the traction over here that they enjoy in the rest of Europe, mostly because other parties have adopted their most popular policies and pretty much diluted their influence, leaving them on the fringes.
Conservative MP David Davis seems to have a clue and indeed he has actively opposed the RIPA Act 2000. He's against the surveillance laws being brought in and says the government already has too much power to snoop on UK citizens. However, Loz Kaye told me when I met him that most of the major politicians have no interest in digital rights or copyright reform and he's had no success in getting them to listen to him. The Greens are a different matter. "They side with us on these issues," he told me. When I said there were no Pirates running in Salford he suggested that I vote Green. I'll have to.
In a digital world where big business holds sway and democracy is an illusion, the Pirate Party are our only hope — unless the politicians in the major parties begin to see the value of their policies and adopt them to dilute their influence. As long as the sensible, reasonable policies of increased accountability, equal access to information and the ending of the copyright monopolies are put into practice, who cares who actually gets those laws enacted?