It is to be hoped Nick Clegg's transformation from supposed progressive champion to special interest lacky does not extend to other equally vital issues of government policy.
The hopes of those campaigning for the repeal of the digital economy act were dashed a few weeks ago by Jeremy Hunt, the new culture, Olympics, media and sport secretary, when he conclusively answered “…we’re not going to repeal it” when asked about the act in an interview with Paid:Content UK.
Not only does such intransigence represent a myopic position with regards to the interests of both an innovative sector of British business and digital prosumers (those who simultaneously consume and produce online content) but also illustrates the vacuity of the previous ‘against’ position adopted by Nick Clegg.
Central to the Liberal Democrat leader’s philosophical understanding of the modern liberal tradition are the ideals of autonomy, capability, community and de-centralisation, with his understanding of the contemporary British liberal narrative being perhaps no more clearly articulated than in the Demos publication he authored in 2009, ‘The Liberal Moment’.
It is these same values that are also expressed by Richard Reeves and Philip Collins in their own Demos publication, ‘The Liberal Republic’, which understands the capability and autonomy of the individual as being profoundly interdependent with their ability to collaborate with their communities – understanding that the state mediates and impacts the ability and agency of the individual to be ‘big citizens’. It has been said that the latter text is protean for understanding the sort of society that Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats will seek to build in office.
It is with these values in mind that many of those technologically savvy individuals who followed the digital economy debacle during the course of wash-up believed that Nick Clegg was the only leader of any parliamentary party to really understand the new zeitgeist of online collaboration and the possibilities that Net 2.0 endow upon the individual in order to share, create and collaborate – some of the very fundamentals that could help to build the ‘big citizens’ that Clegg opined for during the course of his general election campaign.
For such individuals the volte face collectively performed by the Liberal Democrats during the second reading of the bill represented an irritation with the undemocratic nature of the wash-up process – or as Clegg called it a stitch-up – but also seemed congruent with the ethical stance advocated by both Clegg and Reeves regarding capabilities, autonomy and liberty within the Liberal ‘Yellow book’ tradition.
It seems, however, that such an interpretation of events was wrong – if there is any phenomenon likely to achieve the end of ‘big citizens’ that Clegg so consistently asks for it is the kind of sharing and online collaboration that the new act will directly repress and that Clegg now appears to seem entirely indifferent toward.
Consequently if our new deputy prime minster wishes to seem to progressives among online communities as an individual of integrity and intelligence instead one of vacuity he must challenge his Tory partners in government about the potential repeal of the digital economy act otherwise his positioning over the issue in the run up to the election will seem to have been born entirely of political expediency rather than any conviction as to the preservation of liberty and enlarging the scope of individual agency and autonomy.
As Left Foot Forward has previously highlighted, there is plenty to be worried about in the coming digital economy act. What is perhaps more worrying for progressives is that in retrospect the manipulative use of the digital economy saga in the lead up to the election by Mr Clegg now seems the act of an incredibly shrewd and calculating electioneer who sought to hijack a vacant progressive bandwagon rather than the that of a man of principle who is in tune with some of the more noble fibres of his own party’s philosophical and intellectual traditions.
It is to be hoped his transformation from supposed progressive champion to special interest lacky does not extend to other equally vital issues of government policy.
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