No Right Turn kind of nails the value of the Internet Party in this post. In itself it probably isn’t that politically useful. However it’s mere existence means that the net becomes a political issue. It forces the typically technophobic and illiterate pack of antiques called Members of Parliament to start dealing with issues arising from it. It moves them outside their comfort zone.
Yesterday, the Internet Party finally launched. And within 7 hours, they had the 500 paid-up members required for registration. At a time when political party membership is generally falling, that’s quite an achievement. As for how they did it: they made it cheap, and they made it easy via online signup – something we can expect the other parties to try and mirror. But in addition to that, they had a cause people could believe in, even if its “visionary” is a vaguely creepy guy who looks increasingly like a Bond villain. Internet freedom, privacy, copyright, but above all, politicians who understand the internet rather than fearing it, people who are of the net rather than coming across like Mr Magoo every time they talk about it – these are things that matter to an increasing number of people. And now there’s a party based around those issues, they’re in the political discourse, and other parties will have to respond.
And that’s the Internet Party’s real value: making the net an issue. Their mere existence moves the Overton window on these issues. Other parties will now be asked about copyright terms, or membership in the “fives eyes” spy-club, and have to take an explicit rather than passive stance. And that means we can judge them on it.