I was fortunate to met up with Rob McKinnon at FOSDEM who has just recently taken on a new role at O'Reilly (they employ very smart people - but then what else do you expect. Also check out their European blog).
We got talking about politics in the UK and the rise of user petitions and open political content (They Work For You). It was a timely discussion as the Independent had recently published an article about this.
The problem I have, as stated before, is that whilst such open discussion and the involvement of the public in such petitions is good, it is not politics in the wider sense but instead single issue focus.
The problem for me, is that our political system seems to lack any grand visions of the future and has instead fallen back to a state of TINA (there is no alternative) on the grounds that global economic environment dictates this. I just don't buy it.
Whilst I'm all in favour of everyone having a voice, there is a real problem with mob rule on every issue(the crowd is not always wise - see the Marquis De Condorcet). With a lack of direction and the probability that the crowds voice can all to easily be ignored, we could end up reinforcing the culture of powerlessness (vulnerability) and prolong the illusion that one person can't make a difference.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't vote on such polls, or raise our concerns or question our MPs - we should. This doesn't mean that the emergent behaviour from such polls won't be positive - it may well be. However, we should be debating what vision of society we want, how we want it to run and making it happen ... that's politics.