All entries for Wednesday 28 February 2007
February 28, 2007
Details will be released once patents are in place. All I’ll say is that it’s like domesticated volleyball.
Freedom of Information is about as sexy as a soggy ham sandwich. And yet it’s really important, and under threat.
Since being introduced by the government in 2000, it’s allowed journalists and members of the public to access huge amounts of information which was secret before.
Examples include a league table of the UK’s worst polluting companies. Details of nuclear power plant faults in Britain. Lists of post office branches due to be closed. MPs travel expenses. Countless stories in local newspapers.
None of these stories would have become public knowledge if it wasn’t for FoI.
But the government thinks the £10m cost to public services of having to deal with Freedom of Information requests is too high. Which is another way of saying that it’s been too effective and the government are running scared. The Department for Constitutional Affairs proposes to make FoI more expensive and would see fewer requests complied with.
Everyone should care about this, and everyone should be complaining. £10m is nothing.
A series of Big Brother? £60m
Liverpool Football Club? £450m
Freedom of Information?
Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke will today launch a bid for the Labour Leadership. They’re not standing. But they are bidding to make it an open, transparent and useful process with debate about the direction of the party.
Thinly veiled, it is a challenge to Gordon Brown’s “hide behind the curtains” strategy.
I’ve always thought Brown would need a kick up the rear in order for him to be honest about what his government would provide, other than more of the same. And so I’m pleased to see Milburn and Clarke push for this so publically. I think their intentions are honest and neither would want to be PM themselves. But the behind-the-scenes briefing seems to be saying this isn’t enough. They want a heavyweight to run against him. And their preferred heavyweight is David Miliband.
None of this is actually likely to make Brown open up and deliver a lecture on anything more useful than ‘Britishness’, his favourite vacuous subject.
But something else might: Polls.
Brown is thirteen points behind David Cameron according to the Independent – which is even worse than Tony Blair at the moment. Mr Brown isn’t stupid, and knows he’ll have to do something about this.
The trouble for him is that the Labour Party members might ‘do something’ before he gets the chance. But something is likely to stop them. Echoing in the back of their minds is the thought that in 2009, under someone else, they’ll hear four eery words from Gordon Brown…
I told you so.