I’m happy to announce here the results of my latest in-depth research into a troubled group within our population. It’s been a long and detailed investigation, taking me all of several minutes to carry out, but it’s shown that this group have terrible problems with an addiction that they just can’t control. It seems that for this group the addiction is almost impossible to control, let alone kick. Every time they see something troublesome it triggers an automatic response to plunge back into an addictive response to an extent it’s almost instinctive rather than conscious, and my research shows that this addiction is widespread, possible even endemic within the studied population.

Tragically, a large percentage of our politicians are addicted to knee-jerk reactions. For some it may have started as a simple pleasure, perhaps even a small fetish, carried out in the privacy of their own home, or occasionally shared with friends over a drink. I’m not going to judge them for this addiction – who among us hasn’t succumbed to that occasional temptation to demand that Something Must Be Done, usually with its accompanying belief that the Something we’ve just thought of is the thing that Must Be Done? But most people keep that to themselves, or just share it amongst friends, we don’t go on to display our full knee-jerking tendencies to the entire nation.

I want to tell you the story of Sajid. Like many politicians, Sajid is an occasional knee-jerker, but he normally keeps himself under control and doesn’t blurt out too many policy proposals. He’s very good at his job, and has recently been given an important promotion (with many predicting even more in his future) in which he’s responsible for dealing with the internet. Unfortunately, Sajid’s addiction to knee-jerking makes him forget everything he knows about the internet as he hastily comes up with a policy in response to a press release. The thrill of that momentary rush he gets from a jerking knee and the instant policy buzz it provides overwhelms all his common sense and basic knowledge. Everything – even basic questions like ‘how can the UK Government impose regulations on sites based overseas without widespread filtering and regulation of UK ISPs and users?’ – is ignored, in favour of experiencing another brief patellic spasm of muscular pleasure.

To propose a solution to knee-jerk addiction here would be a foolish task, and merely surrendering to my own desires to have an opinion on anything. We must instead take our time and consider every option and every angle to this problem before tentatively proposing a solution that will likely still require some amendment and will not solve the problem instantly. Until then, all we can do is watch our politicians carefully for whenever they show the signs of public knee-jerking, and respond to them with mockery, which experience has shown is the best way to counter the symptoms of the addiction, if not the root causes.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fast approaching the tenth anniversary of setting up this blog, and to mark that, I’ve been going through my old posts. It’s interesting looking back and seeing what was important back then – and how different blogging was back when it was all just fields round here, and there were none of your Twitters and Facebooks for sharing links.

Next week, I’m going to begin a series of posts looking back on my blog, but today I wanted to look back at an old post on British Spin I linked to in 2003. Specifically, this prediction:

There will be an major insurgent political movement in the UK within the next 10 years, and that it will organise, fundraise, evangelise and motivate through the internet.

There was lots of talk back then about how the internet was going to change everything about politics in Britain, but has it made any real difference. Sure, there are internet-driven campaign sites like 38 Degrees, but do they count as ‘a major insurgent political movement’ or just old-style lobbying and campaigning using new tricks?

The internet has made it much easier to swamp government departments, MPs’ offices and councils with letters and petitions, but has that made a difference, or just raised the bar on the amount of activism you need to generate to get noticed? Sure, anyone can keep a hashtag trending for a day or two, but has that fundamentally changed politics at all?

Still, the prediction was from June 2003, so there are five more months left for it to come true. But has the internet changed politics, or become just another tool for keeping it all the way it was?

(Note: I believe the blogger formerly knows as British Spin now blogs under their own name, but I can’t recall if that’s public knowledge, or if they want it to be – can anyone help out?)

Update: British Spin is now better known as Hopi Sen – I’m informed he doesn’t mind the link to his old identity being known.

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