The practical action con

There’s a twitterstorm going on in the UK over the Digital Economy Bill (Mike Butcher’s post gives some background and resonates with how I feel about it).

Part of what’s getting the twitter pitchfork mob animated myself included is a recent amendment put forward by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, who apparently is paid £70k a year by an IP law firm.

My local Lib Dem candidate is, I’m pleased to see, on Twitter engaging with us all on the topic. What I’m less pleased about is this tweet from her:

thanks for all the comments on Digital Economy Bill, we’re after practical specifics

There’s a risk of misinterpreting tweets, given their length, but I detect a trope here that I really hate. It’s related to the one that provoked Peter Block to write his book, The Answer to How is Yes. What appears to be a virtuous demand for practical steps may actually be a thinly-veiled demand for others not to be angry and not to protest. The author presents herself as if determined to take action but really it’s a way of avoiding responsiblity – in this case, for expressing a clear opinion on the behaviour of a colleague. I could be forgiven for translating it as

Oh dear it’s all so difficult and you’re not being very helpful.

The Lib Dems initiated this noxious amendment and they should not demand someone else take the initiative in cleaning up their own mess. An apology would be a better place to start than patronising your passionate critics.

2 thoughts on “The practical action con

  1. Johnnie Moore

    With respect, Johnnie, you are being unfair. I am not apologising for or defending the amendments tabled by LibDem peers. In fact, I led the LibDem PPC rebellion with our open letter demanding a rethink.

    I spent the afternoon doorknocking in my constituency so not able to do much online,but I wanted nevertheless to acknowledge all the comments coming in and say keep ’em coming. I have no problem with people saying ‘LibDems stink’ or ‘ditch the whole Bill’ or whatever, even though I can’t do anything with that. Knowing people’s views is important in itself.

    But I’d particularly like specifics as I’m actively lobbying LibDem peers on next steps and someone out there might have a really good idea that is deliverable now. If so I don’t want us to miss it. One of the reasons I prefer specifics is that scatter gun attacks risk hitting the innocent in the crossfire.


    Thanks Bridget, I’m very glad you led a fightback in the way you describe.

    I’m all for you canvassing for better ideas and there’s something to be said for letting their Lordships know how foolish they’ve been and how angry they have made people, like me, who are generally pro Lib Dem.

    If you come knocking on my door, I’ll look forward to a more elaborate conversation!

  2. Mike Wagner

    Johnnie, I don’t fully understand the context of this post but I do like what seems to me the meat of the matter.

    Your line summarizing Block is excellent, “virtuous demand for practical steps may actually be a thinly-veiled demand for others not to be angry and not to protest.”

    Thanks for stirring my thoughts here in Iowa with a subject born in the UK.

    Keep creating…and co-creating,



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