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Sunday, November 30, 2003

The big Con?

It is possible that because I am a politician I am too cynical. We all make noises about wanting to listen more and to take account of other people's views when making decisions. Most of us mean it. I am sure therefore that the Big Conversation is perfectly sincere and legitimate. The fact that the Prime Minister only seems to be talking to his own party may well be significant but then so might the fact that most of the questions are loaded and do not in any way lead the Government to even think about back-tracking on policies such as top-up fees. However, what did it for me was the website.

The idea that this is some sort of Government consultation, which is encouraged though never claimed explicitly, is blown apart by the fact that if you look carefully the website is in fact a Labour Party one. You do have to look for it though and pay some attention to what is said on it. Furthermore, if you decide that you want to pass on the three big issues that you think Britain faces, you are invited to do so only after giving vast amounts of information about yourself. Admittedly, most of this information is not compulsory but in most cases that will escape the average browser. E-mail addresses, party loyalties, previous voting records, telephone numbers and propensity to vote, if passed on via this website will all be spun into the great Labour Central Office computer and used as part of their re-election campaign.

In modern elections the amount of information that a party holds on the electorate can be crucial to winning or losing. It enables them to target messages, identify supporters and get out the vote. The big idea then is clearly not just one of consultation, it is to add to that store of knowledge about each and everyone of us held in Labour's databanks. Now why didn't I think of it first?

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