OPENNESS, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRUST?

How ‘accountable’ are our politicians?

If you are to believe the politicians, then politics is about openness, accountability and trust. The problem today however is that all too many people don’t believe their politicians. Now the magazine, Computer Weekly, has provided at least some evidence to support that view. It’s reported that the Conservative Party has attempted to delete all of the speeches and press releases that have been published online in the past 10 years – even attempting to remove any record of them from search engines. The speeches include one in which the Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised to use the Internet to make politicians “more accountable”.

David CameronAccording to the magazine, the Tories have used what is known as a “robot blocker” which in effect asks any search engine to stop looking and indeed go away! In an uncharacteristically frank comment, the magazine suggests that the party was trying to hide these speeches in the same “secretive corner of the Internet as those that shelter the military, secret services, gangsters and paedophiles”. At least one commentator has described this as an “outrageous subversion of democracy”, pointing out that the whole point of putting people into power is to hold them to the promises they make. If they break those promises, they risk getting punished the ballot box.

The party stands accused of trying to delete all record of the promises made before the last election. For example, they include the “Big Society Manifesto” which was part of the party’s central platform back in 2010. Then there is the promise to make the Internet more transparent in order to “bridge the gap” between the government and voters – also gone! Then there was the promise by George Osborne back in 2006 that a future Tory government would increase state spending by 2% the following three years.

Lord Prescott (Creative Commons)
Lord Prescott
(Creative Commons)
The interesting thing is that the Conservatives have made no attempt to hide what they’re doing – and don’t seem in the slightest embarrassed at having been found out. It insists that the changes to its website were simply an attempt to clean it up. As a spokesman explained, “we’re making sure our website keeps the Conservative Party at the forefront of political campaigning. These changes allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide – how we are clearing up Labour’s economic mess, taking the difficult decisions and standing up for hard-working people.”

Others are much more cynical! Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, took to Twitter and asked “how do Tories stop being accused of breaking election promises? By DELETING all pre-2010 speeches and press releases!” And the Labour MP for Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore added that it would “take more than David Cameron pressing delete to make people forget about his broken promises and failure to stand up for anyone beyond a privileged few.”