Tony Blair had become more involved in domestic issues this week. He has increasingly taken the lead from John Reid in attempts to deal with gun crime. He also found himself directly involved in a consultation process on road taxing policy which demonstrates the rising impact of information technology in the political process.
Prime Minister Blair has recently been attracting less media attention than has his heir apparent, Gordon Brown. This week he appears to have moved more centre stage again. While there has been some attention paid to military stories around troop withdrawals from Iraq, he seems to have taken renewed interest in domestic affairs. Today he takes change of a Government initiative following last week’s spate of murderous gun crimes. Home Secretary John Reid appears in a secondary role, as he joins with Mr Blair today in what has inevitably been dubbed a gun summit.
The meeting brings together community leaders, politicians, police, victim family-members to an open-agenda meeting at Downing Street. The format has been signaled as a kind of brainstorming.
The Genie out of the bottle
The Prime Minister has also less willingly found himself dealing with the consequences of an experiment in electronic democracy. People were invited to submit petitions to Downing Street. Over a million did, on the subject of a proposed road taxing policy, road in a demonstration of the power of the internet to mobilize public opinion. The innovative approach has certainly offered a lesson in the dynamics of e-consultation. The invitation was couched in terms that provided an opportunity for individuals to voice fears and opposition to change, rather than one for discussion, debate, collaborate problem-solving, and so on.
Seems like a good thing to me. It’s already focused Ministerial attention on the significance of preparing the public better for any change process. The talk now is of clarifying the misconceptions that have been used to mobilize opinion against the proposed policy. Learning is taking place… about the followers we deserve.
The Genie of democratic consultation is out of the bottle. One consequence has been described as Mr Blair sending emails to over a million people. Well OK, a single carefully crafted email will go out to the millions of email addresses connected with the petition. Will the email invite further dialog?
Blair’s last leadership acts?
Tony Blair appears as an increasingly besieged leader, confronting a host of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Another Shakespearian drama. But which one? Perhaps more Julius Caesar than Hamlet, with just the slightest of echoes of MacBeth and King Lear?