Monday, 19 May 2014

The Pirate Party, by Andy Halsall

There is something slightly strange about politics in the UK at the moment. Something that doesn't get that much coverage in the media hubub. It's something that isn't upfront in most politicians' election campaigns.  If you take a moment to look, you can see it almost everywhere.

During last year's local elections, the one thing that Pirate Party activists were told time and again by the people we spoke to, whether on the doorstep, in their flats or on the street, was:

"I don't vote, because it doesn't change anything."

There is a sense of powerlessness over the forces that shape our lives and the space around us. A feeling that decisions are made but we aren't included.  That governments whether local, national or European can do what they do regardless of what we want.
 
Ever increasing privatisation means many aspects of our society, from housing to the NHS, are being divided up and parcelled out. It can be impossible to find out who is responsible for the most basic aspects of our environment, public space and services, let alone get anyone to do anything. 

Huge companies, vested interests and foreign governments seem to get more of a say than we do in the agreements that shape our economy and society. We are left out, where we should be at the heart of decision making. We are kept in the dark, when we should be being kept informed.

There are plenty of problems.

In the UK, we are constantly scrutinised and monitored, whether it is by Europe's biggest array of surveillance cameras, or by our own and 'friendly' intelligence services. Here in the UK, companies like ATOS are paid to check we are ill enough to be off work. 
 
When it comes right down to it, in a country of physical barriers, many of us look to the internet as a place where we might retain some freedom, some control. But here too, as we have heard from whistleblowers and from our own governments, we are increasingly to be watched, restricted and monitored. The result of that snooping is targeted advertising, social analysis, and intelligence reports. The product is you.

We never hear about freedom of movement anymore. About the ability to live, work and play anywhere in Europe. Remember, it cuts both ways. All we hear is how one party or another may deal with the 'problem of migration'.  The same isn't applied to the free movement of goods or services. Of course not!

Do we want to live in a society where our jobs can be sent abroad to the lowest bidder, but we can't follow? Where European workers can't come to the UK to improve their lot and give us the benefit of their skills? Limiting that one freedom changes the balance, but not in our favour.

Oh, and the customs queue at Manchester airport will be murder.

That can't go on.

Our government has created a state where the default answer is 'No'.  In this 'No' cultur,e it's not surprising that people begin to feel that nothing can change. This is, more than anything, what the Pirate Party wants to change. 
 
Yes, people know us best for talking about digital rights, yet at the heart of our politics is the right of everyone to share knowledge, to innovate and to prosper. That is the way to take control over the world around us.

This is especially true when it comes to the European Union. Too many of our politicians are doing what they think might win them votes. Rather than talking about policy, they are shouting about personalities.  Rather than fixing the problems with the European Union, and there are many, they would rather use them as an excuse to do nothing. Our politicians prefer to say 'No' to change, 'No' to innovation and 'No' to building a better Europe.  

There are solutions...

The Pirate Party isn't like that. We want Europe to work, and we want the chance to convince you to be part of a Europe that works.  
 
For us, that means holding a referendum on our membership of the EU. It means making the case for the changes that are needed so that we remain a member. We need to be part of a better European Union.

We don't accept that the European Union can't be fixed, or that it is broken beyond repair. We know that our elected representatives in Europe need to hold the balance of power, to be able to make the changes needed, to introduce legislation and to respond to the need of those who elected them. Right now, they don't.

Vote Pirate

We know that we can help to build a society which breaks the feeling of powerlessness.  A European Union where our voices are heard and our concerns addressed.  This won't be an easy task. 
 
In Europe, we will need to curb the influence of lobbyists.  We will need to cooperate with other European countries to address the democratic and structural issues we see. 

The ideas are right here, they shouldn't come from pure ideology, dogma or think-tanks. Every policy is just an idea, a way to do it, and evidence that it will work. Everybody can get involved in that, everyone has something to contribute. 

That is why we are standing three excellent candidates in Dr Maria Aretoulaki, Dr George Walkden and Jack Allnutt. Maria is a small business owner in Manchester, George is a University Lecturer and Jack is a committed civil liberties activist.  We know that they can help bringout the ideas that we need, share them, and work to have them implemented in the European Parliament.

We have enough experience to know that it won't be easy; we are not naive. But it can and will be done. The test will be to see if the same voters in years to come feel that they really can change something, because by voting Pirate on the 22nd of May they will.

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