UK Politician Hates the (Digital) Environment

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the irony-immune IT department of the European Parliament was censoring emails complaining about censorship. Now it seems they have a kindred spirit here in the UK: The “bee-mails” were sent...

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the irony-immune IT department of the European Parliament was censoring emails complaining about censorship. Now it seems they have a kindred spirit here in the UK:

The "bee-mails" were sent in protest at the UK Government's failure to back a ban on pesticides environmentalists believe are killing bees.

But Mr Paterson, the MP for North Shropshire, said the "cyber-attack" was a waste of his time that stopped him from carrying out important national and constituency work.

"Everyone has a right to express their view and write to me but this is a cyber-attack on the constituency office," he said.

Of course, this isn't just any politician that is objecting to people contacting him: this is the UK's Environment Secretary, whose main policy decisions in support of nature so far have been killing badgers, letting bees die and encouraging the replacement of natural plants by patented ones created in the laboratory.

But that novel interpretation of his role in protecting the environment is not the issue here. It's the fact that he doesn't seem to understand that as a politician, it's his job to listen to people, especially (but not only) the ones who pay his salary, and that emails are an important way of doing that. What he obviously hates is the fact that it has suddenly become very easy for ordinary people to express their views, whereas before it was only lobbyists who had the time and resources.

Well, that's the world of the Internet, I'm afraid, Mr Paterson, and the way that democracy works. And since it's illegal to cull or poison people – well, at the moment, anyhow – you'll have to get used to it. If you want to be able to carry out that "important" national and constituency work, rather than listening to anyone that dares to offer evidence that you are wrong, your team could always install filters to sort email automatically rather than doing it by hand: that's one of the advantages of this new-fangled technology stuff.

But dubbing the actions of people who cared enough to contact you a "cyber-attack" only makes you look like ridiculous – and by the way, using the prefix "cyber" does not make you look a cool or groovy hepcat, since that particular epithet went out of fashion about 15 years ago. Indeed, that invocation of a "cyber-attack" by a disgruntled politician is extremely telling, and part of a much larger problem that I'll be discussing at greater length in future column.

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