I received an e-mail today from the office of George Osbourne the Shadow Chancellor. Thanks to Rohan Silva for getting in touch.
They wanted to point out similarities between the speech Tom Watson made yesterday on The Power of Information and previous speeches and announcements made by the Conservative Party. The body of the e-mail is below, but I’d just like to reflect on this old media reflex in a new media world.
Rohan wants me to see “for yourself just how much of it has been purloined from Conservative Party announcements.”
Rohan: I’ve read and can find a whole range of already public sources for these ideas. Books, websites, blogs, reports commissioned by government and others, these ideas are out there and both parties are getting to grips with them and talking about them. I would have to be something of a moron to believe that all the government is doing is nicking ideas from you when it is much more credible to believe that you are all reading about and experiencing the same radical shift in how we communicate and collaborate.
To accuse the other party of stealing ideas simply because you are making the same argument is very tired Government 1.0. If you really believe in the power of collaboration then get involved in a conversation online with Tom, recognise your common understanding and ambitions and get on with improving the way we are governed, not disapproving of the fact that you agree.
By the way Tom Watson has put up his thinking on how the problem of the civilserf blogger (nice creation Simon) might be avoided in the future. It’s good to see public thoughts on this – who would like to join the conversation and help improve what Tom is suggesting – George? Rohan?
Another post that relates to this is here.
Update: Mick Fealty at the Telegraph.
Ministry Of Truth in rattled cage.
Anyway thanks for the e-mail and please keep them coming. The body of the e-mail in full:
I thought you might be interested in how Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson‘s speech yesterday on new technologies and the internet “mashed up” Conservative Party policies, speeches and ideas from the past 18 months. (Comically, the link to Tom’s speech isn’t actually working at the moment: http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/?p=1899 – and it’s not been published on the Cabinet Office website…)
It’s well worth reading Tom’s entire speech alongside our previous key speeches on this subject, and seeing for yourself just how much of it has been purloined from Conservative Party announcements. But for those of you who don’t have time to do that, here’s a selection of some of the most obvious thefts in Tom’s speech, along with some suggestions about other Conservative Party internet related policies that he may want to borrow for his next one.
Tom Watson – 10 March 2008:
“Just imagine if every incident of crime could be geographically tagged? It could transform community policing.”
David Cameron – speech at the Google Zeitgeist Conference, October 12 2007:
“Crime mapping is a great example [of the power of open information]. At one and the same time it enables you to hold your police force to account, get the government to spend money in the right places, and even to help choose where to live.”
STANDARDISED INFORMATION ACROSS GOVERNMENT BODIES
Tom Watson – 10 March 2008:
“Embedding data mash-up into thinking across all of government not just the early adopters within departments.”
David Cameron – CCA speech on setting government information free, 29 February 2008:
“We will require local authorities to publish information online and in a standardised format. That way, it can be collected and used by the public and third party groups…Setting local information free really is the future.”
OPEN SOURCE POLITICS
Tom Watson – 10 March 2008:
“There are three rules of open source: One, nobody owns it. Two, everybody uses it. And three, anyone can improve it. Our future thinking must view government more like a giant open source community. So far government ticks boxes one and two, no one person owns it and everybody uses it.”
George Osborne – speech to the Royal Society of the Arts on ‘Open Source Politics’, 8 March 2007:
“Open source politics means rejecting the old monolithic top-down approach to decision-making. It means throwing open the doors and listening to new ideas and new contributors. It means harnessing the power of mass collaboration. And rather than relying on the input of a few trusted experts, it means drawing on the skills and expertise of millions.”
CONSERVATIVE PARTY IDEAS FOR THE NEXT TOM WATSON SPEECH?
Along with policy commitments to standardise government information, introduce crime mapping and embed open collaboration in policymaking, the Conservative Party has a slew of other policies on harnessing new technologies to improve public services, which Tom Watson may want to borrow for his next speech.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR OPEN SOURCE IT WITHIN GOVERNMENT
On 8 March 2007, George Osborne committed a Conservative government to introducing a level playing field for open source IT within government procurement contracts .
Our research showed that most central government departments make no use of open source IT whatsoever, and not a single open source company is included in Catalyst, the government’s list of approved IT suppliers.
Taking into account the experience of companies and public sector bodies, it is estimated that overhauling this system and opening up procurement to open source IT could result in savings to the taxpayer of over £600m per year.
“GOOGLE YOUR TAX MONEY”
In 2006, the Conservative Party introduced legislation in Parliament, modelled on the successful Barack Obama-Tom Coburn bill that enabled Americans to “Google Their Tax Money”.
The legislation will require all public bodies to publish, in a standardised and systemised online format, every item of government expenditure over £25,000.
This will massively improve public scrutiny over government spending, and empower the public to put pressure on the government to justify exactly how it spends our money.
Unfortunately, Gordon Brown opposes the legislation, and is trying hard to kill off this bill.
BANNING PRINTED PUBLIC SECTOR JOB ADVERTS
On 4 December 2006, George Osborne announced that under a Conservative government, public bodies would be banned from using expensive paid-for printed adverts to publicise job vacancies.
This means that all recruitment advertising will be online, except where there are justifiable concerns about ensuring fair access for a specific vacancy.
According to Reed Personnel Services, £800m of taxpayers’ money is being spent each year on public sector job adverts, compared to £390m in the private sector, despite the fact that the private sector employs four fifths of the workforce.
The potential saving of around £700m from using online adverts is enough to pay for 35,000 new nurses, 30,000 new teachers, 25,000 new policemen or 30,000 new soldiers.
Links to relevant Conservative Party speeches:
November 2006 – George Osborne speech on ‘Politics and Media in the Internet Age’
March 2007 – George Osborne speech to the RSA on open source politics
October 2007 – David Cameron speech to the Google Zeigeist Conference
February 2008 – David Cameron speech on setting local government information free