After the Privacy meeting, I hobbled along to the Black Lion for Pragmatic Radicalism’s “Top of the Manifestoes” event. This is cross between a Pecha Kucha presentation and a balloon debate. There is 60 seconds to present, two minutes of Q&A and then a vote and a second round for the top five. All this taking place in a Pub with an open bar tab. Some of the questions could be fun.
I got there late and put my name down to speak proposing to reduce copyright protection to 20 years, and then settled down to listen to the remaining presentations. My Lewisham Deptford comrade, Joe Dromey pitched for “Workers on Boards – building a One Nation economy”, a good starting point, why should companies only be accountable to share holders?. It seems to me these events and the style of debate is best suited for experimentation and in that light, Christian Woolmer spoke for the proposal to “Scrap all yellow parking lines”; I am afraid I don’t think I helped, I asked him “Why so moderate, what about the Red ones?”. Deborah Sacks, who’s Labour’s candidate in South Norfolk (I don’t think she’s going to win.) argued for a rural manifesto for Labour based on recognising specific rural poverty and deprivation. I have been canvassing in estates in rural constituencies, and feel that Deborah’s position misses certain key propositions. So I decided to help and ask if she’d support changes in gun laws to allow poachers to legally keep their guns at home? This didn’t go down well.
I got to speak on Reducing the copyright terms to 20 years. I argued that this issue needs to be placed in the context of enabling a mixed knowledge economy. We need to think about startups and workers and that copyright terms of life plus seventy years benefits the small number of multi-national corporations that run the copyright businesses. I explained that there were creative businesses that do not use copyright and that copyright stops much of the development of derived works which are the source of economic innovation. I also stated that a Government’s freedom to act will be constrained by the Berne Treaties and United Nations; so more an aspiration than a promise. Fortunately I wasn’t in the audience so the questions were more mature. I was asked how to fund royalty earner’s pensions, why 20 years and whether I thought quality would go up or down; to which I answered that I have to save from my earnings and that despite being a creative worker I don’t own copyright on my works – I don’t see why others shouldn’t also save, copyright has little economic value after 14 years and 20 years is the patent duration and sadly to say, I waffled on the quality issue. I believe the increased demand for works and the lower barriers to entry will both mean that quality will improve, what I actually said is that long copyright was invented by Walt Disney to protect Mickey Mouse so I’d suggest that by asking who gains from long copyright you get an answer to the quality question.
I suggest that it would be good to experiment, but some of the speeches supported quite mainstream proposals. Fiona Twycroft proposed that we match the LibDems by funding free school meals, Francis Prideaux argued to re-nationalise the railways which while it may be controversial in Whitehall and Westminster would win majority support in the Labour Party and probably the country as a whole.
The voting was such that only three proposals got to the second round,
- Fiona and Free School Meals
- Catherine Allison and Banning MPs 2nd jobs, which I reckon should include the Mayor of London and
- the eventual winner, Will Martindale, who proposed capping banks balance sheets
I quite like the Pesha Kucha style and the enthusiasm to participate, including by some senior representatives may reflect how hard it is to get grass roots opinion onto the floor of conference.
I was canvassing in East Hampshire during the 1997 campaign; this was 12 months after the Dunblane Massacre and Labour was proposing to strengthen gun ownership laws, basically prohibiting hobby ownership of guns. I assure you this policy was not popular in the countryside or on rural council estates and was the most spoken about issue on the doorstep. It’s issues like this and rural broadband that needs to be considered rather than just country washing our standard policies. A speech was made on the floor of conference asking for the re-establishment of the Agricultural Wages Board. There are rural issues that Labour can speak for the majority, but I think it’ll take a bit more listening.