The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

The Conservatives could have blocked the Digital Economy Bill (which is now a  law). But they chose not to, according to David Cameron, because the music and entertainment industries were "more important".  LibDem leader Nick Clegg called the DEBill a ‘stitch-up'. Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, does not even know what it is. What does this say for democracy, as UK citizens go to vote this Thursday?


David Cameron, the leader of the UK Conservative party, was filmed for a three-way leadership election debate sponsored by Facebook and YouTube. Mr Cameron says that he could have stopped the Digital Economy Bill, on the grounds that there was no time to debate it. But he did not do so, because "there were important things in the Bill for a really important industry, that is music, 

film, television and radio..."  Mr Cameron said he wanted to let the "good bits" got through.


Therefore, he states explicitly that his Party supported Lord Mandelson's government order to ignore the democratic process and drive the DEBill through Parliament with no scrutiny. This wilful decision to ignore democracy with intentional  support for corporate industry, rides rough-shod over the rights of citizens.


By implication, even if Mr Cameron  did not know the exact issues, the following logic should apply:  if there were "good bits" in the Bill, were there not also bad bits, and was it not incumbent on Mr Cameron, as leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, to stop the bad bits?


Further logic could also be applied. If the "good bits" are important for the music and audio-visual entertainment industries, then who is harmed by the ‘bad bits'?


In light of the fact that Mr Cameron is hopeful of becoming leader of Her Majesty's government on Thursday, his logic should be seriously questioned by voters - because voters are the people who will be harmed by this law.


But at least Mr Cameron did know what the Digital Economy Bill was, and what the issue was, even if he gave an unacceptable answer.


The Prime Minister Gordon Brown's answer to the same question, showed that he was totally ignorant of both the DEBill and the issue that the questioner wanted anwered - why was the Bill driven through Parliament in such an undemocratic way?


Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats,  was the only one of the three to give a full answer to the question and demostrate that he understood the intent of the question, addressing both the questionable process for the Bill and the concerns related to the content and the Internet. He said the DEBill was a stitch-up which could have a serious impact on the way we use the Internet.


The YouTube Facebook debate is an interesting initiative, but one which has been ignored by big media. It's interesting to see how many viewings each video has received, with Clegg's clearly in the lead: Clegg 105,215;   Cameron: 37,445; Brown 36.629.


Will all those people go out to vote on Thursday?



The question put to David Cameron was:

May I ask why only 20 people debated the Digital Economy Bill in the Commons despite a lot of opposition? May I also ask why then 200 MP's from Labour and Conservative rammed the Bill through despite opposition from normal people with normal lives? - Dave, Coventry


David Cameron's answer on the Digital Economy Bill  ( in transcript by me) was:


"...well the Bill was rushed through Parliament too quickly and the government -the Labour government -  delayed the Bill for much too long, they should have gopt on with it earlier and debated it earliler. But we had a decision at the end of this Parliament, should we try and stop this Bill altogether or should we allow it to go through, and there were important things in that Bill for a really important industry in Britain which is music and film, television, radio, and so we thought it was important to let the good bits of that Bill through, so that's exactly what we did..."


Gordon Brown's answer was (transcript by me):

"I think there's got to be a lot more debate about the digital policies of the future and I agree that more Parliamentarians have really got to debate all the issues. I know there's big issues about the sharing of data, and big issues about access to information, so I'm determined that when we are re-elected we will ensure that there is proper debate on all these issues to ensure that people's voices are heard"


Nick Clegg demostrated both knowledge of the Bill and of the issue that concerned citizens (transcript by me):

"The way that the DEB was rammed through Parliament, was a classic example of what's wrong with Westminster. It was rammed through after the election was called, in the dying days of the parliament,  in something called a wash-up. It wasn't a wash-up, it was a stitch-up - a stitch-up between Labour and Conservative MPs who've decided that you didn't deserve to have your representatives in Parliament properly looking at a Bill which might have very, very serious impact on the way that you use the Internet, the way that you have freedom to work on the Internet. That's why we say it should have been scrutinised properly, it should not have been rushed through in that way in the first place, at all. "


The YouTube Face Book Digital Debate: Brown, Cameron and Clegg answer your questions


The Digital Economy Bill became an Act on 8 April 2010 - just two days after the sham debate in the House of  Commons. 

View the Digital Economy Act here. 



This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) David Cameron says music industry more important than democracy,  4 May 2010 . 







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