At the start of the 20th century we elected individuals who would address our concerns locally and represent our ideals nationally in parliament. MPs would travel by horse or carriage; and later trains and automobiles to the offices of government. Daily corresponding via post and telephone with members of local government and lobbyists, who occasionally would seek an audience in person.
Today mass electronic communication such as web forums, social networks, e-mail, mailing lists, Twitter, RSS, rolling news and article discussion along with a myriad others are transforming our political dinosaur. As much as many politicians would prefer to deny it, these technologies are forms of political conference and debate, in effect expanding the House of Commons until every office and home in the nation is encompassed.
Consider how the modern office has transformed in the past two decades and how these technologies now affect politics:
- Ideas are being exchanged and challenged, whilst groups of people are helping to present solutions to issues raised by journalists and MPs. A consequence of this is that it is more difficult to remove the resident political party, since morale is constantly being bolstered by the level of enthusiastic political debate.
- MPs may instantly call a vote via e-mail across the party, including MPs and local government representatives, obtaining a collective decision within hours or minutes, making it much more difficult to make that stupid mistake that loses public favour.
- In the past politicians where more isolated and likely to become demoralized, electronic communication creates cohesion and unity of resolution.
- What previously was a document arriving by post or courier is now a social website, changing from moment to moment as people discuss ideas and resolve solutions.
- Policy dictated by the few to the majority of the party is now clarified by rapid electronic debate.
- The acceleration of dialogue and decorum of literary communication between all members or smaller groups of the party creates solidarity, whilst also liberating cabinet ministers from the cult of personality.
Every individual has a voice that may reach every person on the planet if necessary, promoting transparency in politics, law and economics. As a result society is more capable of policing itself: Citizen Kane if not dead, certainly seems to be losing his head.
Fused and yet in constant flux, from opinions evolving within a billion conversations around the world, emerges a new form of political expression, an energy grass roots canvassers could hardly have imagined, a wave from which politicians need only cherry pick solutions and inspiration from the dialogue contained therein.
Government at its best is mundane and honest administration. Telecommunications networks overcome the hurdles that brought celebrity politics, the sooner we move to issue based political campaigning, perhaps by accelerating the electoral process and so fragmenting the existing monolithic political entities, the better for us all.