David Cameron on Transparent Government
… and how he still doesn’t get it
The similarity in intent between British PM, David Cameron’s, statement on government transparency and Wikileaks’ current activity is delightful.
We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world. Already, we’ve published a huge amount of new information about the inner workings of government, and there’s a lot more still to come. Publishing all this information is a massive job, with many complex technical challenges – so please bear with us over the next few months as we work to get things right.
And, you know, David, Wikileaks is just trying to help you out, any way it can! Does “please bear with us” sound like “Help Keep us Strong!”, or what?
Here is part of what Cameron said in his transparency Podcast from a Train in May this year:
“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since doing this job, it’s how all the information about government – the money it spends, where it spends it, the results it achieves – how so much of it is locked away in a vault marked sort of private for the eyes of ministers and officials only.
“I think this is ridiculous. It’s your money, your government, you should know what’s going on.
“So we’re going to rip off that cloak of secrecy and extend transparency as far and as wide as possible. By bringing information out into the open, you’ll be able to hold government and public services to account. You’ll be able to see how your taxes are being spent. Judge standards in your local schools and hospitals. Find out just how effective the police are at fighting crime in your community.
[ ... ]
But it’s not just about efficiency and saving money. I also think transparency can help us to re-build trust in our politics. One of the reasons people don’t trust politicians is because they think we’ve always got something to hide.
[ ... ]
People will be the masters. Politicians the servants. And that’s the way it should be.
What is wrong about this statement? How does Cameron simply not get it?
It is: “people WILL be the masters/politicians the servants”. They already ARE and have been ever since the primacy of parliamentary democracy, perhaps since the monarch was barred from entering the House of Commons in 1642, the victory of Parliamentarians in the English Civil War in 1651, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which led to a constitutional monarchy, the Act of Settlement in 1701 and particularly since the Enlightenment. Admittedly, Universal Suffrage is a fairly new concept for Britain dating only from 1918 (conditions apply – men over 21, women over 30 only, and with property strings attached). Australia has only had continuous universal suffrage since 1963 when the right of some indigenous Australians to vote was restored. (When Sir Roger discovered this today he was so shocked he was forced to retire with a jeroboam of Chateau de Jean-à-Pied Bleu to the davenport and contemplate the security of his Estate.)
Cameron still seems to be labouring (ha ha clunk) under the illusion that ownership of the State is in the hands of the government; that control of information did, and does, lie in his purview; and that access to it is a privilege which – in his model of a benign tyranny – he may choose from time to time to bestow upon the citizenry … supposedly if they eat their veges and go to bed when they’re told.
Snake on a Train?
Until recently, Britain has apparently charged its citizens for information from its “sort of secret” databases, information whose collection, storage, management, organisation and interpretation, including the state employees who carry out these tasks, was paid for by taxpaying British citizens themselves – information which indeed is, for all sorts of reasons, already owned by the citizens. The fact that there has not been a huge outcry against this double-dipping is a tribute to the hypnotic powers of the British political establishment and/or the complacency and docility of the generality of the British citizenry.
Nevertheless, though, and all in all, Sir Roger does applaud the small concession Cameron has made to “lifting the veil”, even if he has far, far to go.
[tags]transparency, transparent government, data transparency, information, data, internet, government, politics, data, privacy, secrecy, Britain, UK, monarchy, democracy, enlightenment, English civil war, Glorious Revolution, constitutional monarchy, Act of Settlement, Enlightenment, suffrage, female suffrage, universal suffrage, indigenous, indigenous Australians, Johnny Walker Blue, tyranny, dictatorship, podcast, masters, servants, bureaucrats, taxes, taxation, citizenship, values, political values, Australian values, Australian political values, British political values, Cameron, David Cameron, British Prime Minister, Charles I, Cromwell, Roundheads, double-dipping, Freedom of Information[/tags]
Posted: 11 December, 2010 in Australian Politics, Australian Values, Computing, Culture, Economics, History, Internet, legal, Life, politics and government, Technology, values.
Tags: Act of Settlement, Australian political values, Australian Values, Britain, British political values, British Prime Minister, bureaucrats, cameron, Charles I, citizenship, constitutional monarchy, Cromwell, data, data transparency, David Cameron, democracy, dictatorship, double-dipping, English civil war, Enlightenment, female suffrage, Freedom of Information, Glorious Revolution, government, indigenous, indigenous Australians, information, Internet, Johnny Walker Blue, masters, monarchy, podcast, political values, politics, privacy, Roundheads, secrecy, servants, suffrage, taxation, taxes, transparency, transparent government, tyranny, UK, universal suffrage, values