With just 22 days to go until the election starts, like many social media addicts I am wondering just how much more Official Political Tweeting I can take.
Politics with a small p is, of course, on fire. My social media feeds sizzle with the anger of people from across the globe: over the racism of cops in Ferguson, US, over the destruction of antiquities by Isis, over Jihadi John, over Netanyahu’s 26 standing ovations and, above all, over the alleged criminal behaviour of bankers.
Yet the average mainstream politician runs a Twitter feed sublimely indifferent to the issues that excite the world. “Glad to be on the doorstep in Acme-shire, where we had a good discussion about local nursery provision,” is typical MP’s tweet. It is often accompanied by a photograph of the said meeting, in which nobody at all looks glad, nor indeed involved in any kind of discussion.
The social media output of MPs looks even more unhinged when you see it in the context of the debates raging among their constituents online. In fact, if you look closely at people in a party political hustings these days, you will find many of the punters and all the journalists glued to their phones, discussing almost everything except what the meeting is about.
In this context, the decision by the UK’s newly founded Pirate party to crowdsource its manifesto looks interesting. The Pirate party phenomenon started in Sweden in 2006 and spread to 20 EU countries including Germany, where it secured its one MEP in the 2014 elections.
Up to now, its obsessions have been grouped around the issues of internet freedom, state surveillance and the monopolisation of intellectual property and communications. But a glance at the Reddit page where the crowdsourced UK manifesto is being assembled reveals a much wider agenda. If you discount the pure techie stuff, the top five policies being discussed right now are publication of all government documents; removal of CCTV from public places; exempting small businesses from EU VAT rules; scaling all fines against a convicted person’s wealth; and – as with the Greens – paying everybody a basic income from taxation.
If you interrogate the subtext of these discussions, it is possible to come up with quite an accurate picture of what this part of the UK electorate is worried about. Namely, the size and unaccountable power of the state; criminality and tax evasion among corporations; and the venality and powerlessness of official politics. And though the Pirate party’s membership is small, my online life tells me these are indeed the political worries of a generation.