Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer

The great Peter Cook wrote and starred - as the eponymous Michael Rimmer- in a film in 1970, that seems eerily prescient of the Blair era. I think I've only seen it once on late night TV decades ago, but I have found a precis of the plot here.

Toward the end of the film:
Once installed as leader of the country, Rimmer goes into overdrive, pulling off his greatest coup so far. ............ allowing everyone in the country the opportunity to vote in a referendum on every single issue. The genius of this ploy is revealed when the great British public, saturated with form-filling and ballot-marking, give up all interest in politics - leaving a clear path for Rimmer to announce his job upgrade to presidential status.
Has any other reader noticed the remarkable resemblance between this plot contrivance and No 10 Downing Street's e-petitions website. I wonder if they are by any chance related?

Actually, as I have been enjoying the Government's discomfort over the e-petition opposing road charging that has attracted so many signatures (the BBC put the figure at "more than a million" yesterday afternoon, but it is over one and a quarter million this morning) something that has struck me about the coverage is the lack of emphasis of the usual e-democracy, infomaniac, yada yada yada about the fact that it is an online as opposed to paper petition. The sotto voce, soft-pedalling of that angle of the story is actually an indication of a profound change.

I remember Bill Gates saying that we tend to overestimate the impact of technology in the short term, but underestimate it in the medium term. We still get Apocalyptic hoo-ha like the New York Magazine's 'Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll', but real change reveals itself as gently yet relentlessy as the tide.

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