Interview with UK Pirate Party leader, Loz Kaye
1. Tell us a little bit about the UK Pirate party? Is it closely linked with the international Pirate movement?
The UK Pirate Party was set up in 2009, following the breakthrough success of the Swedish Pirate Party getting MEPs elected in the Euro elections. It’s young, fresh, tech savvy and provocative stance was a real breath of fresh air.
We think of ourselves as a collective movement. The UK party is member of Pirate Parties International with like minded groups from across the globe. There are elected representative in Iceland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Austria and Spain.
2. What are the main aims of the UK Pirate party?
It’s to be a home for those that feel politically homeless. We’re the first genuinely 21st century party, born on the Internet. So a lot of our core issues are digital rights, opposing mass surveillance, opening up the benefits of tech to all. But we are equally about how do we all get a fair share in society, and mend our broken political system.
We are passionate about involving the wider public in democracy and policy. Our 2012 manifesto crowd sourcing process was unlike anything else in UK politics involving thousands of people contributing, discussing and refining. Everyone has something to contribute in our society and it’s time for a party that reflects that.
3. How did you feel when you were made leader of the Pirate party UK? Is it hard to lead a UK fringe party?
I’m happy that the members have backed me as Leader – after all it’s their party not mine. And to be honest when I was voted in for the first time in 2010 it was all still a bit of a surprise. I have always been interested in politics, but had the idea that it was something that other people did. You know, the ones in think tanks and with politics degrees. But after all, politics is too important to be left to politicians.
I think this is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, I’d say to anyone who has ever moaned about politicians, get in there and see what you can do. The toughest thing is that we are all activists, and running a party and running for election is very time consuming. I’m constantly impressed by the dedication of the people in the Pirate Party and their passion.
4. Can you see the UK Pirate party having an MP elected soon?
We’re ahead of where we had hoped to be at this stage, in the last couple of years we have cracked beating much larger parties with significant support like the LibDems, Respect, BNP and UKIP. The next step will be much tougher and we need to expand our on the ground support and membership before we can achieve the wins we have to aim for. The plan for 2014 is to grow the party. What I know is that there are a lot of people out there unhappy with the status quo- and if we don’t challenge it who will?
5. Do you believe your support and your party’s success is being cut down and reduced by the FPTP system?
Most people don’t really give a crap about voting systems. The biggest problem is the understandable anger and scepticism about politics, which increasingly means lower turnout. The real barrier is the broken promises, the expenses scandals and the grey dull elite. It means that voters find it hard to trust anyone, the job to rebuild that trust is massive.
It is clear that the current system doesn’t reflect the real views of the population. We do support reform for that reason, not to make it easier for ourselves. However, the LibDems stuffed up the best chance of change we had in a generation with the AV referendum, so I don’t think we will see a switch from FPTP any time soon.
6. What are your views on the new Cameron Censorship drive on the internet?
We warned David Cameron months ago that a “Great British Firewall” would have serious consequences. We pointed out that default on filtering would result in both over- and underblocking. That innocent sites would be censored. That Internet users would be left confused. That parents themselves had rejected it in a consultation.
Sure enough, Newsnight’s investigation in to filtering showed blocks on Edinburgh Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Doncaster Domestic Abuse helpline, Sexual Health Scotland amongst others.
At the end of the day you can’t just outsource social policy to BT. Internet Service Providers are not our moral guardians, nor should they be.
7. Do you think the ‘UK Firewall’ is indeed to protect children, or is it something more sinister?
The ‘UK Firewall’ doesn’t protect children, as no block is 100% effective. Cameron has been misleading parents. Also, young people are being prevented from seeking help they need, for example with the blocking of sites aimed at LGBT youth.
This policy is born out of US teaparty style puritan ignorance. Claire Perry has wilfully ignored advice from everyone who actually knew anything about how the Internet functions in her crusade. I find it really alarming that that type of politics that celebrates ignoring evidence is taking hold in this country.
There can be no doubt that this government is interested in controlling what we read and how we communicate on the Internet. One of the first responses to the summer riots in 2011 was for Cameron to blame social media. The ‘Prevent’ terrorism strategy stated that “Internet filtering across the public estate is essential”.
8. The late head of MI5 stated that ‘the British people have more to worry about from their own state police, than from terrorists’. Do you believe this to be the case?
The bald figures certainly bear this out. Over the last decade Inquest record that there were 515 UK deaths in police custody and by other causes such as pursuits, RTIs and shootings. In the same period there were 58 deaths at the hands of terrorists in the UK, again depending on how you define it.
This has serious consequences both for individuals, bereaved families and the wider community. The circumstances around the shooting of Mark Duggan were complicated, messy and tragic. But what we are left with after the inquest verdict is that it is lawful to shoot an unarmed young black man.
Mercifully, such incidents remain rare in our country and we should work to keep it that way. For me the danger to all of us is the climate of fear that has grown up around the ‘war on terrorism’. It is this that is being used to justify mass surveillance, which turns us all from citizens in to suspects.
9. What is the UK Pirate parties stance on copyright? Do you agree with the actions of sites like the Pirate Bay?
Copyright, and the whole host of rules that make up ‘intellectual property’, are remnants of another age. The point is that the web is in essence a giant copying machine, so a system that creates perceived value by restricting copying is fundamentally at odds with the Internet. The most urgent problem is that to hold on to their markets the big entertainment companies have been pushing worldwide draconian crackdowns of “3 strikes” type laws to chuck entire families off the net for infringement, and sweeping site blocking powers.
To highlight the futility of these measure Pirate Party UK hosted a Pirate Bay proxy. That was until the music industry body the BPI threatened me, and the rest of the national executive, with the High Court. It is still beyond me that they thought ruining me financially, which would have been the consequence, would achieve anything.
Why this matters in the wider world is that we have always said that if you give courts or governments the power to use site blocking for ‘pirate’ sites, they want to use it elsewhere. 2013 proved us right.
10. Do you believe the UK and officials in government are completely out of date when it comes to policy regarding online copyright and the internet?
This government and politicians are woefully ignorant of the current issues affecting the Internet. It is either a prop for cringe making ‘In the Thick of It’ style press opportunities or a source of danger at every turn.
You don’t need to be Alan Turing to be minister responsible for the Internet. But you do need to be able to listen to the right people and take the right advice. Ed Vaizey, who is currently responsible, has failed on this.
11. What would the UK Pirate party do instead, if elected?
Our chief proposal is to limit copyright terms to 10 years. This is a common sense compromise. This would change the incentive for the music industry to sit on back catalogues and squeeze the last drops out of dead musicians, to having to seek out and promote new innovative talent. Good for artists, good for business, and good for the public as so much more art would be in the public domain.
12. What is the UK Pirate parties stance of the EU and Britain?
The Greek prime minister has said about the upcoming Euro elections that “voters will choose whether they want Europe or not”. We want Europe, just not this one.
Many fundamental issues have to be decided on an international level – from mobile roaming to fishing – whether Mr Farage likes it or not. I’m proud that Pirate Parties across the continent will be campaigning on the same core programme addressing security, data protection, trade, technology and EU reform. I’m pleased we’ve had an influence in ideas that will be put to voters from Prague to Preston.
But the institutions of the EU must be reformed and made more open and democratic. We support a referendum on membership, it’s long overdue. But it’s not about renegotiating a ragbag of powers, it’s about fundamental changes. Otherwise populations will reject the whole project.
13. Do you believe both major political parties in Britain have led us into an endless loop of major spending and major cutting?
The failure to confront the real causes of the collapse in 2008 mean our economy and society is hugely trapped. As we bailed out the banks rather than the population we are storing up problems for the years ahead. We are repeating the same mistakes again as house prices have jumped 7.5% last year, fuelled by the government’s help to buy scheme.
14. Do you believe in political education in schools? Why?
I wish I had a GCSE for every time I have heard “they ought to teach (subject x) in schools”. It normally means “I wish everyone were a little bit more like me, but I’m going to make that someone else’s problem”. It’s our policy that schools should have the freedom to choose the teaching methods and materials they feel are most effective to ensure their students are well equipped. I wish Mr Gove would stop interfering trying to bomb education back to the 19th century.
As for young people and politics, that has to come from them and be led by them. Not by schools, parties or pundits.
15. Any final thoughts?
If not voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.