Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Has Livingston Conservative candidate breached Data Protection Act?

All of a sudden, West Lothian seems to have taken over from Rochdale as Gaffe Central in this election.

First of all, a few weeks ago, Linlithgow and East Falkirk Labour candidate Michael Connarty put out a leaflet in which he had failed to fill in his name - confused local voters have apparently been searching Twitter and Facebook for someone called yourname. Scott at Love and Garbage has more.

Then Jeff over at SNP Tactical Voting found himself in some potential hot water over a post (now deleted) didn't see (not having the time to read too much at the moment) but which I gather contained a bit of gossip about a postal vote count with Linlithgow being mentioned again. This came hot on the heels of Kerry McCarthy, Labour's Twitter "czar" blabbing some actual figures on Twitter. I have to say I have some sympathy with Jeff. He's a fairly new member of the SNP and not an experienced political activist and I doubt he's ever been near a count in his life. I have none, however, with Kerry McCarthy who as an experienced candidate should be more aware of her responsibilities under the Representation of the People Act. For future reference, here it is:

66A Prohibition on publication of exit polls
No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed–
any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted,

Stephen reports this morning how annoyed he is at the accusation by SNP agent Martyn Day that the "London parties" indulge in gutter politics.

Not to be outdone, Livingston Conservative candidate Alison Adamson-Ross has now committed a bit of a howler of her own. I'm not sure if she's actually breached the Data Protection Act, not being a lawyer and all of that, but she has certainly given me personal information about other people that I shouldn't have.

Yesterday I took 2 minutes to e-mail my local candidates asking what they would do to get rid of the nasty Digital Economy Act which gives Government the power, basically, to come with their scissors and cut off your internet connection. Or, rather, they could block mine and my daughter's access to the internet if my husband downloaded something he shouldn't. Not that he does, but it's a hypothetical example of how unjust this law is, a law which was rushed through Parliament after Labour and the Tories stitched it up between them just before the election.

I remember people being highly unimpressed on Twitter at the time of the debate, citing examples of MPs patiently explaining what an IP address was to others in the chamber who clearly hadnt a clue.

I was somewhat surprised to get a response very quickly from Alison, which I print in full below.

Thank you for getting in touch about the Digital Economy Act. I certainly share your anger about how the Government rushed through such an important piece of legislation in the dying days of the last Parliament. There was absolutely no reason why they couldn't’t have introduced the Bill earlier into the House of Commons, where MPs would then have been able to debate it at length. It just shows the contempt in which they hold both Parliament and the industries affected by this Act.

As you know my Party did support many of the measures in this Act. For instance a single age rating system for video games was needed to help parents understand what sort of games are appropriate for their children, and Channel 4 needed an updated remit. Most significantly, something needed to be done to try to reduce online piracy which was estimated to have cost the UK 39,000 jobs in 2008 alone.

We believe that the Act sets up a proportionate and measured response to this problem and that it contains sufficient safeguards through an appeals process and Parliamentary scrutiny for consumers to be protected. It is important to note that only the most serious and consistent offenders will face the threat of disconnection and this will only be done after they have received numerous letters and gone through an appeals process. So although I understand the strength of feeling on this proposal I do not want to rule out temporary disconnection. I will listen to the debates in Parliament and closely follow the drawing up of the codes that will govern this process to make sure that the interests of legitimate users are upheld.

In terms of website blocking I believe that in some circumstances such measures may well be needed. It cannot be right that websites are set up purely to make money by facilitating online piracy. Again though, these proposals will be consulted on and debated in Parliament so I look forward to taking part in that process.

Although I understand that we may not agree on this issue I am very happy to consider all aspects of this important debate. As such I would be more than happy to attend any meeting on this subject should I be elected on 6th May.

Yours Sincerely,
Alison Adamson-Ross
Scottish Conservative & Unionist Candidate

I'll tell you something, she absolutely doesn't share my anger about the passing of the bill - how can she when her party stitched it all up with the Government and mine opposed it and has called for its repeal? I also have absolutely no guilt about sharing a private response when it bears a startling resemblance to the Tory responses from around the country posted here. The creator of that site, by the way, is my husband's cousin Alistair, grandson of the lovely Auntie Patsy I've mentioned elsewhere on here before.

So basically she just churned out the Tory standard response without thinking. That's not all, though. It came in a Word document attached to an e-mail. Unfortunately, what Alison didn't do was BCC. She replied to me and nine other people who had contacted her on the same subject. I now have all of their e-mail addresses and they have mine.

I quickly e-mailed her back to point this out and she apologised, saying she was a self confessed technophobe. She had assumed, she said, that as we were all part of the same campaign, that we all knew each other. The fact that there was a huge stooshie about this law and over 20,000 people wrote to their MPs as it was going through Parliament was clearly completely lost on her. I'm sure I know a fair few of those who took part in that initiative, but not all 20,000! Out of touch or what?

Alison now knows from our correspondence how to do BCCs if she didn't before, but I kind of despair that if she were elected to Parliament she would be in a position to make laws on people's access to the internet when she clearly understands so little about it.

I did get one other response, from my local Liberal Democrat candidate and very good friend of mine, Charles Dundas. I can't reproduce it here, because it was highly personalised, and full of the sort of cheek that only a man who knew my vote for him was safely in the post could give. Charles Dundas and Stephen Glenn are the only candidates standing in West Lothian who can be trusted to try and get rid of this bad, bad law so if you're undecided and this issue is important to you, do vote for them.

Update: Thursday 6 May. Bob's cousin Alastair has alerted me to the Edinburgh North and Leith Tory candidate's response which is even funnier.


Mr Eugenides said...

This "Charles Dundas" character is showing great contempt for you by assuming that you'll vote for him come what may. I wouldn't be surprised if he calls you "that bigoted woman" behind closed doors.

You should kick him where it hurts and withhold your vote. That'll teach him some respect...

Paul Walter said...

Great post Caron! Just one thing. What's a "stooshie"?

Unknown said...

Mr E, Charles Dundas may be cheeky but I'd trust him with my life.

Paul, a stooshie is an argument, a fight. See here: http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/dictionary/stooshie/

Stephen Glenn said...

Caron as my response in on your nephew's site (small world) you are more than welcome to reproduce that on this excellent post about the internet black hole that is the other three major parties in West Lothian.

Stephen Glenn said...

As for Mr E. I can see Mr Dundas withdrawing invites to Pimms parties on his lawn this summer for comments like that ;)


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