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Friday, 20 May 2011

No motion in the House

Did the debate in the House move anything any further forward? Was it a discussion of, as @yarwell put it, apocryphal problems about broadband? Or was it a route to a solution for this country to have the (cough, splutter) 'best broadband network by 20xx'? To me, it was simply GroundHog day.

This blog post can be read at

IMHO, for starters the Motion was wrong. Rory Stewart is my MP - I queried the wording and purpose of the motion prior to the debate. (Possibly not quite that diplomatically as I recall, but when your MP hits you with an autoresponder each time you email, and has failed to personally answer a single email I have sent as his constitutent since his gets irksome after a year.)

Once again, we hit the vagaries and niceties of the democracy we live in. Apparently, you dumb it down to get some support, or face the matter head on to actually solve it and risk outright Government opposition - to their own back bencher. Nice.

So, what we end up with is pretty much a nothingness. A debate on the telly box, a fill-in after lunch and until St Stephens empties out after rush hour, a few lines of media coverage, some MPs telling ghoulish tales about their constituents' failure to get online, but a hard-hitting outline of the problem? Nope. Some pussy footing around My Rt Hon friend's fantastic response, but no querying of facts, no accurate facts - that bloody £28BN figure was once again cited as fact when it wasn't and isn't. No hard core debate that actually sees people taking chunks out of each other on the floor and making the difficult choices that need to be made to push for a singular view of the place Britain is trying to get to and the route to it.

No, it was all rather pleasant, dull and pointless.

Chi from Newcastle quite clearly illustrated why Ofcom need taking out at the knees. She did no better at Rheged. She may well be a nuclearatonic brainiac rocketific psychotherapneumanist, but she seems to bluff her way out of every question with little actual knowledge or comprehension of the science, regulatory or economic arguments. I may be wrong but as yet she is doing indubitably well in proving me right.

There were several MPs who appeared to have been 'got to' by BT or some similar cause eg Ian Lucas, whose ponderous tones defied any of us to feel any passion for the subject whatsoever. He certainly didn't. And his facts simply were not. He definitely shouldn't sing for his supper - it'd be bread and water. The man seemed to understand nowt. (Or whatever the the equivalent of 'nowt' is on the Welsh border)

Eric Ollerenshaw took the floor and showed quite magnificently that he had actually heard a voice from grassroots. @cyberdoyle (who has listened hard to many over the years) had managed to inject Eric with the passion you will hear from so many consumers, communities, new entrants, businesses etc who GET IT. Now, Lancashire County Council, dare you ignore Hansard? It will be oh so easy now to highlight and broadcast, within moments, your decisions about that RDPE funding, Barry Forde's plan etc.

Tim Farron might have been lying on the bed of nails, the number he managed to hit. Quite astounding to actually hear informed truths come out of a politicians' mouth about copper, FTTC, and more. I've always been quite open to his views since meeting him when we were trying to fibre-wireless Garsdale many years ago, (kyboshed by the NWDA in favour of an impoverished and expensive wireless connection that can't, won't and doesn't work for many of its connectees); Tim definitely went up in my esteem today.

It is a true shame that the speakers cannot be intervened upon in such debates by the real world in real time. We've done it in our broadband and community events since 2004. A backchannel where the electorate are feeding information to our elected representatives might just put debates back on track and actually face up to the issues they are supposed to be discussing.

Or should we run such debates in the open, in the Big Society, and demand that our politicians attend by issuing invitations that bear similar gravitas to Question Time? Oh, but that also fails to tackle single issues debates..... If this, as it currently runs, is democracy which finds routes to the best solutions for this country, I will eat cat5.

(Due to the fact I have just sent an email to my constituency MP that includes F*&^ in the subject line, I will hold on further commentary until my MP responds to my real concerns about today's debate).


Anonymous said...

The best man today was Tim Farron representing the Kendal area he pulled out all the stops for FTTH.

PhilT said...

Always good to have the subject on the Agenda, no matter how flawed the system. It certainly is flawed when a debate attracts so few MPs especially on the opposition benches.

It was very much groundhog day, which is inevitable as the current state of broadband in the problem areas hasn't changed much since about 2005. If we haven't achieved anything in 6 years we're likely to continue to fail to achieve anything without some kind of radical shift.

Perhaps we should have a referendum like the AV one, on whether to spend say £15 bn of taxes on a national FTTH fibre infrastructure. We would at least get a decision, even if it wasn't to our liking.

The precise cost number doesn't matter - it's more than either Govt or private sector is prepared to fund now or in the near future. Let's test the principle - maybe an opinion poll would be a start ?