back to article How a Tory gov will be the most tech-savvy in history

When the Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne realised his wife had left her dress on the train on the way to a charity dinner last Saturday he called lost property. Unfortunately, being a Saturday afternoon, lost property was closed and his wife was distraught. Fortunately Duncan's 50,000 Twitter followers came to the rescue. …

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  1. pootle
    Coat

    'ang on I have an idea

    all new bills should be limited to the size of a tweet.

    Oh! all right then, 2. The main bill and a separate appendix.

    After all if you can't say it in 158 characters, its not worth saying is it?

    OK, where's my coat.....

  2. Grommet
    WTF?

    WTF?

    Apple and OpenSource in the same sentence?

    Use Twitter to get intelligent responses?

    Putting government data in the cloud? Do you even know what the cloud is?

    Crikey, with that level of understanding we definitely should vote for you..... NOT!

  3. Jimbo Baggins

    "Grant Shapps is a sock-puppeting loser"

    Not good work from El Reg. For one thing, as others have pointed out, there are several parties standing in this election: you should cover none of them or all of them (leaving aside the BNP, who can be safely ignored at will).

    Also, as has been hinted at, this Shapps character's been caught out being dishonest online.

    "Grant Shapps is a sock-puppeting loser"

    http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2007/07/grant_shapps.asp

    Is that really the sort of government we want to replace the current discredited crowd?

  4. John A Blackley

    Heaven help anyone

    .....who brings concepts before this crowd! No, he's not a bithead. No he's not a techgeek. He's a wannabe pol who's trying to float an idea.

    Is it workable? Perhaps. Would the idea - if refined and implemented - be of benefit to anyone? Perhaps.

    But, if the Reg commentardiat gets its way the ideas in this article will never see the light of day because they're "rubbish".

    Sigh.

  5. Tim #3

    Corrected it for you

    It seems your editors had a bit of a moment, so I've just corrected this article for you ...

    "Taking that job ad example, let’s assume that the department tweets about the job opening.

    Now, assuming the department has a Twitter following and that the message gets re-tweeted – where the original message is re-broadcast by others to their own lists – it would surely only be a matter of minutes before applications started flowing in from highly qualified candidates who clearly have nothing better to do with their time than sit on Twitter. This will really help with the selection process as we can discount that group of individuals immediately.

    A Conservative government will respond to new technology in a completely different way to this Labour administration, and we're even naïve enough to forget that they will have signed up to long term IT contracts with huge penalty clauses for early exit. Rather than defaulting to the creation of enormous new databases in the style of the late and over-budget NHS system, we will look to leverage the immense power of so-called cloud-based computing where information is decentralised, shared and improved by the wisdom of many. Let's not worry about this being personal data and the rules about Data Protection, as someone will soon lose it all on a laptop anyway.

    Using technology to blow open the closed world of government is also the principle behind our recent Open Source Planning Green Paper. Just as Apple, the inventors of the Windows PC, ensured that their product was ‘open source’ - meaning that politicians could come along and invent ways to use phrases in an entirely unsuitable manner - so too will our planning policy benefit from involved citizens achieving more than central government could ever manage on its own, which shouldn't be too difficult either.

    But we won't stop there, even though it may not appear we have started yet.

    By introducing a powerful new 'Right to Government Data', we will sell government datasets to be manipulated and presented by others, thereby empowering our school chums with more useful, accurate information.

    We'll publish online every item of central government spending over £25,000 and local expenditure over £500. As well as publishing every contract in full. This will of course include all GCHQ contracts, anything to do with the security services, and any contracts involving our chums' companies in Belize."

  6. MinionZero
    Thumb Up

    The importance of truly open Information and being free to highlight mistakes...

    I want to start by dealing with this point ... @"it would surely only be a matter of minutes before applications started flowing in from highly qualified candidates."

    Which totally assumes that *highly qualified candidates* waste their time with trivial superficial data streams like Twitter?! ... Most highly qualified candidates got that way through years of very hard work, so combined with their need to have their own life, they therefore often have far less time (and interest) to waste time watching other peoples lives on Twitter! ... Therefore using Twitter to find candidates results in an unfortunate biasing of candidates towards the low end rather than the highly qualified end!

    Which is very interesting considering you are trying to say how a Conservative government will understand new technology better than Labour?! ... The point you are missing is that you are showing you are failing to understand people. Its not just about new technology, you need to understand and relate to the users.

    Which is very interesting because here is the key to why almost every government in history starts off by selling high ideals during electioneering (and I'm sure most truly believe what they are saying) yet in the end they repeatedly fail to make society truly better for everyone. Simply because they fail to understand people and the way most people are forced to live due to the pressures of life on them (and so how they suffer when laws are changed). This is what all governments need to get much better at doing.

    So I find it very interesting indeed that you talk of open government. My question is how open is open really?

    Most governments seem to end up failing by descending into a them And us kind of attitude, making us lowly Citizens feel ignored (and even feeling repressed under the current Regime) which is exactly how society ends up getting ever more distorted away from government representatives truly being representative of the people who put then into power, leaving no choice but to throw that lot out of power, to get another lot in, repeating the whole sorry mess election after election.

    The only way this repeated cycle of decline can be stopped, is by a government truly representing the wishes of the society they say the want to represent and so the only way we can achieve that is by truly gaining a means where society as a whole (not just lobbyists) are able to provide a constant feedback into the political system. But we cannot do that if politicians keep finding excuses to hide information from society, because they know that to fully reveal all could reflect badly on them if mistakes are highlighted. We need politicians who are not afraid to be honest to the people they represent, so the best way is to keep everyone informed moment by moment as situations develop, rather than hiding what is going on from society, until its grown into such a shocking nightmare that its impossible to hide and ends up as a massive shock to everyone. If we are introduced to what is going on moment by moment its not so shocking at all and people can see the reasons why things have to be done to fix problems as they occur. But that requires truly open raw information well formatted for many people to easily process it all, to highlight what is going on. Not hidden information as we currently suffer.

    We therefore need near *real time* truly open information on government open to everyone not just companies. That way society and politicians can truly start to work together rather than both sides feeling embattled.

    So I really do find it very interesting indeed that you talk of open government. I just don't believe it until I see it because even if some MPs believe in it, bad past experiences have shown (e.g. expenses) that time after time some MPs will try to hide data and so we risk spiralling into another mess again. We need to stop this repeated slide into a messy, harmful decline and start truly working toward the same goals. With truly open information we can do that. Surely that's a lot better future than the shocking mess we have at the moment. Finally that would be something to really look forward to, rather than suffering the current real fear of how badly its getting so messed up. We all want a better future and something to really look forward to!

  7. chris swain

    Re: The only way this repeated cycle of decline can be stopped

    I was considering standing on this very platform but gave up because I felt that it was too big a mountain to climb. The system is stacked against it.

    We really need to lose the concept of professional politicians and start electing people from the real world.

    I figured that I could do the job of MP on an MP's salary of around £60kpa, taking £28k for myself and using the remainder to build a local network, both internet and sneakernet style to allow real, two-way communication with the all of the constituents. I would have given as much accurate information as I could to constituents and canvassed their opinions on every matter of policy, voting in line with the majority view. I would pay constituents to do the legwork on an ad-hoc basis and have no agenda of my own.

    I would also have given people a mechanism for deselecting me as soon as they felt I wasn't doing the job.

    It only costs £500 to stand but I bottled it - too much effort with too little chance of success. The media don't take fringe parties seriously and persuading people to actually vote on a long shot with no party to form a government and no exposure is a non-starter, besides, the Great British Public would have to get off their arses and read, listen and think for it to work. However if there were enough like-minded people around the UK it might make sense...

  8. O
    Headmaster

    This guy needs to educate himself in the ways of IT

    If he's one of the more 'tech-minded' of the coming government, then he should at least spend every evening between now and May the 6th reading as many articles on Wikipedia on IT as possible.

    I'm sure he, as with most of the rest of the Tory bunch, is less malign and wants to spend and tax less than the cabal of criminals that make up the current government. Beyond that, he appears to be clueless. Getting rid of vastly wasteful IT projects, ID cards and offering more contracts to small, domestic companies will be great ... but as for interesting or useful policies, I think it'll be some time before we see anything.

    Just for the record, if the author reads this:

    The iPod and iPhone are the very antithesis of Open Source. They're as closed as you get, hence the pathological hatred that some have for them, and why Apple is so frequently and widely condemned for policies relating to them.

    How you could not know that Ducan Bannatyne is a very well-known Laboury toady is beyond me.

    Do some research in future.

  9. lee harvey osmond

    Well I suppose I'll take my shot ...

    Dear Grant Shapps MP:

    Firstly, the iphone is not 'open source'. 'Open source' can be defined and described in many ways, and one succinct description is 'not like the iPhone'. The phrase 'open source' has a special meaning -- best find out what it is before you next use that phrase.

    The iPhone developer tools may be a free download, but that doesn't make iPhone development accessible to all ... really not at all like the "thereby empowering citizens with more useful, accurate information" to which you refer. You need to spend about a thousand quid on a modern Mac, and a couple of hundred quid on an iPhone or an iPod Touch, and sign up for the development program -- that starts at £59 in the UK, and then usually costs some more as UK candidates often find they ned to get their solicitor to fax an authenticated copy of their passport to somewhere in California. And then you need the skills to exploit all this and begin writing solid working code! The whole process is less like being an empowered citizen, and more like becoming an .... accredited lobbyist. [I should point out that becoming an iPhone developer isn't that much harder, and is in some cases easier, than becoming any other sort of developer. Mostly this suggests that your iPhone analogy was a poor one even before I started stretching it.]

    "throw open democracy too by introducing a technology enabled Public Reading Stage to each Bill so the wisdom of crowds can improve laws and spot potential problems"? Nice idea. However, there is a school of thought that "the wisdom of crowds" is a paraphrase of "20000 lemmings can't be wrong". On the other hand, leading light of the Open Source (found out what that means yet?) movement Eric S Raymond coined a phrase "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". Let's think about that.

    Consider the Videolan project -- that's genuinely open source, as opposed to just bandying words about -- which has a MacOSX downloads page. On it there are remarks about how there is no 64 bit version, how they would like more development volunteers, and what the skills they think those volunteers will need are. I've not volunteered or downloaded the source code, in part because I know I am missing some skills which I think would be vital. By comparison, I have never read the draft of a bill, but I did once visit my local public library and pull down a volume from a shelf and read, or rather try to read, the text of some enacted legislation. I, like most people who are not lawyers who draft legislation, found it to be impenetrable.

    What next? Oh yes, Twitter. That's currently not a Government-run service, it's a private venture casting about for a revenue model. If you were to offload a pile of Government activity onto them, that might substantially increase their bandwidth bills (in reduced English for MPs, that is to say, operating costs). They might come after the Government asking for money. Would the Government prefer to come to an arrangement, or to accidentally drive Twitter into bankruptcy?

    And there's very little authentication on Twitter. It's relatively easy to masquerade as someone you're not. Dumping Government activity onto Twitter would invent new classes of opportunity for fraud and identity theft.

    Despite the present Government's best efforts, there are still lots of people who don't have ready access to the internet, and the have-nots tend to be the less privileged in society whom governments usually try to prioritise trying to reach; and this is before thinking about the present Digital Economy Bill, which I do hope does not survive the wash-up so that in the next parliamentary term that matter can be dealt with again, properly and rationally.

    Advertising job vacancies by Twitter? I remember, in 1991 I think it was, that some executive at Kent County Council got his letter printed in The Guardian, about how he did not believe in graduate unemployment because of how few CVs he was seeing. Naturally I sent him my CV by return of post, and it seems every other unemployed graduate (quite a lot of those in 1990-1, if I remember) did too, and it was some months before I got a reply, which mostly said "sorry for the late reply, we got lots more CVs than we expected". I never heard from Kent County Council again, so I expect I wasn't the man they were looking for. I doubt many of the other people who posted CVs were the right person either. The difference is of course, what with Twitter being something to do with the World Wide Web, that the deluge of replies won't just come from the part of the world where the print edition of a national newspaper is distributed -- they'll come from the whole world. Mr Shapps, would you care to propose some "wisdom of crowds" initiative for performing the equivalent of a CV sift?

    -- lho

  10. Wokstation
    Thumb Down

    Tory PR site

    Wasn't it a Tory PR site that was an off-the-shelf jobby that they forgot to secure and then allowed unmoderated tweets including those which had code in them?

    Yeah, PR savvy.

    I assume El Reg plan to balance this with pieces by Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, SNP, BNP, Monster Raving Loony Party and any other party that's standing for election to Parliament?

  11. OneTwoThreeFour
    Coffee/keyboard

    Well

    I hope The Reg will publish Labour, UKIP, BNP and SNP editorials as well.

    Seriously though, when did you become such an obvious outlet of political propaganda?

    (There were only Tory undertones previously.....)

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  13. mmiied
    Coffee/keyboard

    well

    when they became such a ROFL as this one was

    seriously "apple open source". I very nearly turned blue form laughing at that and when he was talking about advertising for hi caliber jobs over twitter and the "wisdom of crowds" I had to go get a drink of water and check the date

  14. BlueberryB
    Thumb Down

    Party Political Broadcasting

    I was unaware of the need for internet websites to publish party political broadcasts, so I will assume that this is a free 'puff' for a rather opportunistic candidate for office.

    The inference that the current administration (which really is no better and no worse than previous ones) is wasteful due to a centralised data policy is specious. Government as custodian of data is expected to manage that in the most efficient and 'safe' way possible.

    Government projects spiral out of control and over budget due to interference by civil servants with political targets and contractors with poor expectation management skills. To infer that Government ministers are in any way qualified to make decisions on areas of technology or its implementation is laughable in the extreme, if this is the case why bother with systems integrators, just get a local MP to tell you how to knock it together on the basis of an article he read in the Telegraph Technology section, you know the one that mentioned that snazzy thing that the kids are all doing Squeak or Squitter, marvelous stuff you really should try it.

    The average MP spends less than 18 months in a ministerial posting, very few of them are technologists. Are they truly competent to make the comments above?

    Finally - if I want to read about politics I buy the Economist, if I wanted to read about IT issues I used to read the Register.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Politics ...

    And if I want to read about science, I go to New scientist.

    This site used to be an IT equivalent of Private Eye. It's morphed into some bizarre cross between spiked and order-order.

    I'm all for a wide range of opinions. But the emphasis should be on "wide range". On the reg, Opinion pieces are jumbled in with news and come from a very narrow viewpoint. It makes the guardian's CiF look well balanced by comparison.

    Get it sorted - please ?

  16. Chris Williams 1
    Dead Vulture

    Surely not the place...

    ... for such guff-wind? This reads like a first-year assignment, perhaps suited to a Daily Mail audience happy with soundbites and opinions to hang its collective hat on, but The Register?

    I don't know whether to feel insulted or amused! I would be pleased to read this cock fluff on El Reg if it was alluded to, pointed out or even copied verbatim from a non-techie site, perhaps revealing to us what sort of cack is being foisted upon an ignorant public, but if we are actually the original intended audience... gawd elp us.

  17. Dave 142

    No

    Mac, Linux and Windows fanbois, unite against politicians posting here as well! It's bad enough we hear lies and empty promises everywhere else, not here too.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    The iPhone is to "open source"...

    ...as the Conservatives are to "open government"?

  19. Dan 10

    The Wired article had more substance

    I'm surprised no-one has commented on the article in this month's Wired magazine about the Tory web machine. That was quite in-depth and informative, and demonstrated that, amazingly, the Conservatives actually 'get' the internet. Not at a tech level, obviously, but enough to employ the right people to do it properly, give them the right level of funding and let them get on with it, which is more than can be said for most government IT projects.

    Admittedly, the above article is caveated 'comment', so it's allowed to be an opinion piece rather than an unbiased article, but I think the level of trust for anyone with 'MP' after their name is so low that it struggles for real credibility.

  20. Harry
    Thumb Up

    "Laws should be defined by _flowchart_."

    I'd be happy with that -- provided that the flowchart worked strictly on normal "yes/no" principles where the criteria for "yes/no" at each stage is properly definitive and there is no "maybe" branch.

    Example: Suppose the draft of a law states that something must be done "within a reasonable time". MPs vote in favour, despite some of them thinking 1 month would be reasonable and others thinking 1 year would be more appropriate. A government department subsequently suggests people should assume 6 months -- but warns that it is not a definitive answer and a court might decide otherwise. Result -- laws which nobody can be SURE they are complying with.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. MPs should be required to amend the draft to a specific time -- one, three, six, twelve months -- doesn't much matter, as long as they AGREE on the answer and it is the value that they agree on which becomes law, not something that unelected people can argue about subsequently.

  21. Haydies
    Alert

    Tory policy generator

    One large hat.

    Fill with words the kids say.

    Shake, and pick.

    Job done.

  22. @dartacus

    I also hope that we'll hear viewpoints from other parties

    I also hope that we'll hear viewpoints from other parties too (although you'll have to find a BNP candidate who isn't so terrified of the magic bleeping box on the desk that he can flail at a keyboard for a minute or two). There are a number of Labour MPs who know one end of a mouse from the other, at least.

    G

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  24. LPF

    Wow all the teeth grinding by labour :D

    And the amount of poeple using the word "Toff"

    You do realise that about 3 quaters ters of the labour cabinet went ot private school don't you ?

    The Apple OS is built on BSD, last tiem I checked thats pretty open to everyone arent it??

    Anyway whataever happens I hope thie shower of Sh*te is voted out, becuase I dont know about

    anyone else, but for someone who was chancellor for 10 years to be given such a run around by

    the city that we end up 200 billion in debt paying off thier mistakes, to be voted in turns my blood

    cold.

    Also the thought of that harpy harman being in power, jesus wept, she will end up sterilisng all

    but 10% of boys at birth just to ensure women get the upper hand!

  25. Haydies
    WTF?

    Borrows from BSD

    Doesn't make it Open. I can't for instance download a copy of OSX and install it on a non-apple PC. I believe they sue people for that.

    So, yes, all though some parts of it where taken from BSD that doesn't make it open source, unless you have a url where I can get the source? I think thats the most basic definition of open source... the source is open, and any one can look at it.

    Apple are in no way, and never have been open.... period.

  26. LPF
    Paris Hilton

    @ haydies

    Pretty sure they helped witha project called darwin

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_%28operating_system%29

    "Darwin is an open source POSIX-compliant computer operating system released by Apple Inc. in 2000. It is composed of code developed by Apple, as well as code derived from NeXTSTEP, BSD, and other free software projects."

    "In July 2003, Apple released Darwin under version 2.0 of the Apple Public Source License (APSL), which the Free Software Foundation (FSF) approved as a free software license. Previous releases had taken place under an earlier version of the APSL that did not meet the FSF's definition of free software, although it met the requirements of the Open Source Definition."

    So tory toff boy knows more than you! Now pipe down there's a good lad!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BNP

    I'm surprised they haven't (for nakedly obvious reasons) targetted the IT community already.

    Maybe because, despite the pressures on our industry we won't respond readily to dog-whistle politics.

    I would like to think so. But offshoring gets little (i.e. none) of the attention other political issues get like IR35 for instance.

    Or maybe it would just wear the little moderatrix to a frazzle.

    BTNG

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FlowCharting

    Prove it.

    If laws can be flowcharted, it should be possible to flowchart an existing one. Pick one. Lets say Criminal Damage of the top of my head. I'm skeptical but willing to be swayed

  29. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Who scored the biggest own goal ?

    If you think it was "the Reg" click thumbs UP

    If you think it was the tories click thumbs DOWN

    Vote now !

  30. Martin Nicholls Silver badge

    This is...

    .. the Tories who use windows + .net for all their own stuff and sit in rackpace hoping and praying?

    As opposed to labour who use PHP...

    Know which I think are better at tech, and it obviously aint the tories even though I'm no Microsoft hater.

    Civil servants who don't have a clue are the problem, and they're in theory completely party independant - so you're just gonna get the same guys screwing everything up, some of these people may have 40 year careers messing up the country and they're the people doing the real work.

    I also saw something with the words Open Source and Apple in the same sentance - I like to read articles like http://www.macvicar.net/blog/2009/02/apples-relationship-with-php.html to remind myself what goes on whenever I hear that kind of thing.

  31. moonface
    Grenade

    MP dismissed true cost shocker!

    IT gaffs aside from the Tech savy Tory. I just find it, not so incredible, that this MP totally misses the whole "twitter to the masses and a solution will be found" point and dismisses the true costs in his example!

    The Duncan Bannatyne story is a very poor example of motivated people power. The initial stupidity of the wife leaving her dress on the train was always going to cost dear old Duncan £1000 as soon as he tweeted the reward. I wonder how many people would be motivated to retweet the message on, if the original £1000 reward was not on offer, or if the tweet itself, wasn't an opportunity to curry favor with a multi-millionaire?

    Therefore, It has got NOTHING to do with with running a 21st century government!!!

    If anyone had the money and twitter account that offered £1000 incentives in each tweet for doing small favours . They would quickly have a lot more followers than all the Dragons Den twatters and any prospective Government Dept. It is doubtful howevere whether anyone could frivously lose their cash quicker than MP's lose public money.

  32. chris swain

    Gosh! Yet another reson to foul my ballot

    Do your bit for democracy - foul your papers - you know it makes sense!

  33. Anthony 13
    Joke

    Foul my ballot?

    But what if I don't have a dog to take in with me; could get scratchy ...

  34. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    Fasten your seat-belts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride...

    I think that Reg knew he was doing a Public Service by publishing this.

    The ignorance is terrific.

    I love the Tory anecdote - who the fuck can afford £1000 quid to get back a dress?

    Open Sauce...

    And what's a British drum-banger doing trumpeting flattering lies about some US company?

    Openness = open coffers for the rich...

    Transparency = we can see right through you...

    (Paris cos she's more attractive than this lot, doesn't get her knickers in a twist (heh), and doesn't pretend to be more than a pretty face...)

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