Sunday, February 04, 2007

It's been an unusual ten years

The Blair era draws inexorably to a close. At this time, it's anyone's guess if it will be via Blair's own promised discreet retirement exit - or the maelstrom of sleaze being whipped up by the lizards of journalism, who have never bothered about the Giant Redwoods in their own eyes when there was a mote to be found in the eye of a target under the microscope of the "free press".

This is a "free press" that is not averse to breaking the law and invading the most personal of privacy to get a scoop, as the convicted phone tappers of the news of the World are now contemplating as they languish at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Although they're probably taking the opportunity to chill and write books that will earn them a of of money when they are released in a few weeks time. Perhaps that much overdue prosecution of the naughty NotW hacks sums up better than anything the type of "moral climate change" that the country, indeed the world, has been through since Blair and New Labour beamed in after the election of May 1997.

Although Blair's "project" is increasingly being recognised as a moral and practical disaster of massive proportions, it would be wrong to associate everything that has soured the state of the nation in the past years with the Labour government, which has coincided with the most astonishing period of technology development and mass deployment.

Personal communication has become endemic and affordable to almost anyone on the planet, and the cost of storing unimaginable amounts of data has plummeted The combination of these factors has enabled the internet (which barely existed in 1997) to expose everything and everyone to close examination, by anyone and anything.

Many things that "the establishment" once took for granted under cover of the all-seeing, all-knowing "blind eye" have been rudely hustled from their state of moral quiescence and become the subject of great indignation through selective media manipulation by numerous shrill minority pressure groups. The list is vast: motorists who barely exceed the 30mph speed limit now play in a lottery of cash and points the moment they venture into an unfamiliar area, politicians have sold honours for centuries; journalists - the ultimate crusaders of "the means justify the ends" when it suits them - have broken laws; doctors managing terminal illnesses risk being shopped by fanatical staff who describe this as "assisted suicide"; teachers who try and control unruly brats are treated like the guards at Buchenwald by the legal process. And so on...

Because technology can record the speed and location of every car and human on the planet, we will almost certainly now feel obliged to do it and use the information to tax/fine/manipulate and control. And those who object will be asked by the mealy manipulators of this process "so what have you got to hide?" and the totalitarian ratchet will click onwards once more.

Someone needs to call a general halt to process this before it goes any further. Britain's world lead in surveillance, data gathering and sanctimonious jobsworths is becoming a considerable impediment in a world where "real politik" is starting to re-emerge as a necessary part of life. We need a period of reflection and realisation that the digital age has ensured that everything exists in a state of of "right" or "wrong" and that there is no longer any way to accommodate the shades of grey. Try telling that to the Russians in charge of our energy, or the Chinese in (effective) charge of our economy.

Along with the moral issues raised, this amazing capacity of technology has created manipulative monsters throughout commerce and industry. In the name of sanity, never mind basic economic theory of monopoly malpractise and competitive opportunity, no companies should ever, ever be allowed to be as influential and risk-free in their sector they dominate as Microsoft, Tesco, Sky, Intel, and maybe even Camelot.

One step down we find equally frustrating examples of business cartels that offer no creativity or competitive differentiation. The retail banks, utilities and transport companies all pretty much do as they please, and the consumer is left with the distinct impression that they are all as bad as each other.

As previously observed in this blog, such a state of affairs suits government very well. It reduces the number of points of influence to a very manageable handful, and there now exists an entirely new and more sinister form of "blind eye" where the aforementioned unlovely businesses coexist with government in an understanding that allows them to get away with market manipulation amounting to grand larceny, just as they long as they don't rock the government's boat. The government loves the idea that there are a handful of predictable dullard companies with "so much to lose" and all happy to be as bad as each other, as opposed to a rich diversity of industry, where independent companies will come up with surprises that constantly innovate and raise the bar for customer service and satisfaction.

However, all is far from lost. One of the original strengths of the internet was its ability to survive attacks and empower the masses. The first wave of dotcom mania fizzled out in 2001 with a bunch of dreadful ideas chased by greedy bankers, plus a handful of obvious winners in the shape of eBay, Amazon, and Google who have all succeeded by doing things that were simply not possible before the internet came along.

TMP would cut all UK innovators in technology free from the shackles of the likes of Microsoft by dumping every last item of Microsoft software, and demanding open-source alternatives in all public applications. TMP would stop any TV monopoly from charging people money for any channels that include advertising of any sort, including "in vision" commercials such as billboards at football grounds.

TMP would arrange for the chairman of public utilities personal homes to reflect the service their customers received - for example, the chairman of EDF energy would not be able to switch on the lights as long as a single EDF customer was cut off for more than 24 hours.

TMP would make it simple to switch bank accounts, including all direct debits, standing orders etc., in 10 minutes.

TMP would require all cellphone service operators to show the cost of a call as it is being made, and would hang entire marketing departments whose sole purpose in life is confuse the hell out of consumers with banal and completely unproductive efforts to prevent customers from making straight service/price comparisons.

Now, you all know this make consummate sense, don't you? And you are all equally frustrated that it just ain't going to happen. Or is it? But you don't have to desert your lifelong party affiliations and vote for a no hoper like the SDP was, and UKIP is in order to make this happen, you just need to persuade your chosen leaders to adopt TMP as is policy at the next election.

We have no problem with Labour, Conservative, LibDem, Green, or Monster Raving Loony stealing TMP's finest bespoke tailored policies. In fact, we'd be flattered - and you'd all be a a whole world better off if they did.

1 comment:

Andrew Clarke said...

The idea that there can be a 'leader' of the country is sheer vanity on the part of Blair, and the effect of a spiritual vacuum on the part of the country. In fact, the government can hardly control their own bowel movements, let alone a complex and changing society ruled directly by the sallow plump burghers of Belgium, and the scriveners of the Murcoch empire. Blair could make more changes by retiring from politics altogether and writing letters to the Guardian, like the rest of his political class.