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The Pirate Party UK And The Digital Battleground

Ragnhildur Finsdottir on how Maria Aretoulaki wants to become The Pirate Party's first Manchester councillor

Published on April 26th 2012.

The Pirate Party UK And The Digital Battleground

THERE will be a new party on the ballot sheet at this year's local elections — Pirate Party UK.

With candidates standing in three of the city's wards, Pirate Party UK claims to be a democratic political party built on grassroots support that stands for digital rights, civil liberties and politics fit for the twenty first century.

The Pirate Party is worldwide the only party that has identified early on the big issues that will be affecting us in the next decade or more, very real and concrete issues relating to our increasingly and unavoidably digital society and economy

Dr Maria Aretoulaki is the party's candidate for the city centre. When asked what she hoped to get from these elections the answer was simple: she wants a seat on the city council.

She said: “This is not about fancy titles, fame and glory. I just want to give power to the people who, like me, live and work in Manchester city centre. I particularly want to give voice to those Manchester residents who don't identify or agree with the Labour or Liberal Democratic policies and practices."

She added that she wants to be the alternative choice for those who find elections pointless or feel the right people never get elected.

She said perhaps her greatest challenge is to excite the interest and hopefully provide positive action for the disillusioned, those who think that "all politicians are scum" or the people who find politics boring.

“I believe that things can be different here and now, when more people participate in the decision process regarding issues that affect us all. And this starts with voting to power the people who will think, speak, and act on our behalf. And you would hope that is people you trust and respect. My goal is to be one of them.”

I'm proud to say that we've had registered Labour party members contact us telling us they cannot officially join the Pirate Party because of their Labour membership but still telling us they're going to vote for us

Dr Aretoulaki explained that another reason for standing at the local elections is to make the Pirate Party a household name in the UK. The party wants more people to know of their existence and to become a part of the city’s political discussion.

She said: “We want local people to realise that they can make the party work for them rather than have it dictate to them what's important or urgent to someone else. The goal is to extend the choice beyond the devil and the deep blue sea, which is crucial in the running of any local council.”

When asked if there was any point in running in a city that is dominated by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, she said that it made more sense to run in Manchester.

The low turnout for local elections — less than 25% — means the party would not need many votes to win. It also prompted the Pirate Party's 'Make it More Than One in Four' campaign, aimed at increasing voter participation.

Dr Aretoulaki continued by saying that the scale and mechanism of the elections means that local and national politics can follow very different paths.

She said: “I'm proud to say that we've had registered Labour party members contact us telling us they cannot officially join the Pirate Party because of their Labour membership but still offering us their support and time and telling us they're going to vote for us too.

"I call this a quiet revolution. Small actions with a big impact. More effective than noisy or bloody revolutions too.”

When asked about funds, Dr Aretoulaki explained that the Pirate Party is being funded by their membership and small donations. She said they are very lucky to have a growing base of volunteers who contribute their skills, time and resources — offering anything from flyering to web design, social media and marketing.

She also said they get people requesting them to stand for election in their cities too, something she feels is very encouraging.

We are all digital natives at the Party and know what is at stake, so we are not going anywhere. That is the whole point

Dr Aretoulaki said the Pirate Party UK is here to stay and that it isn’t a protest party set up for just one election. She said protests and rallies are important but make up only a small part of their work. The biggest part, she said, is to listen to people’s concerns and provide carefully thought out solutions to their problems.

“And remember, the Pirate Party is worldwide the only party that has identified early on the big issues that will be affecting us in the next decade or more, very real and concrete issues relating to our increasingly and unavoidably digital society and economy: data access, data protection and copyright, transparency of government decisions and data held on the citizens, personal freedoms, the widening digital divide between young and older people, rich and less well-off.

“These are issues that require determination and medium plus long-term solutions, which can only be proposed and implemented by people who know what they are talking about. We are all digital natives at the Party and know what is at stake, so we are not going anywhere. That is the whole point.”

Manchester candidates%3B Party Leader Loz Kaye, Maria Aretoulaki and Tim Dobson.Manchester candidates: Party Leader Loz Kaye, Maria Aretoulaki and Tim Dobson.

The name of the Pirate Party UK is a part of a bigger Europe wide Pirate movement which started in Sweden in 2006. Maria said that as well as being an easy to remember and a catchy name she feels it’s quite appropriate. “The word Pirate comes from the Greek for Peiratomai, which means 'to attempt'. We want to attempt to change things or do them differently, despite what people may say about our small size in the UK and the extent of our influence. And any change starts with attempting.

The Pirate Party UK is an officially registered national party. In this year’s local elections it has 3 candidates in Manchester, Maria Aretoulaki, Tim Dobson and the Party leader, Loz Kaye. There are also Pirate candidates standing in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The party also ran in the national elections in 2010 and plans on doing so again the next time around. 

But whether they can articulate their message clearly enough to really dent the three party axis of power in the UK is the big question.

The City Centre candidates for May 3 are:

ARETOULAKIMaria Pirate Party UK      
BENNETTAdrienne UK Independence Party      
DAVIESJoan Elizabeth Labour Party Candidate      
DOBSONKen Independent   
LIFFENMichael Noel The Conservative Party Candidate      
RAMSBOTTOMMarc Steven Liberal Democrat      
WILKINSONNick Green Party      

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

Question: Why is the Pirate Party standing in the city centre?

Answer: because they AAARRRRRRR!

Embarrassed at the joke so posting anonymously...

AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

Anyone know what the Pirate Party's favourite letter is?

AH! I bet you thought it was AAAAARRRRR didn't you, but no; it's the C!

On a serious note, I'd vote for these guys. Been reading about them for a while now and compared to the shower of cunts that usually stand for election* they've a manifesto that might actually do some good.

*Apologies to the shower, but you've let us down again and again - it's time for change.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

Ah, no swear filter then. Oops.

AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

On a slightly more serious note, the pirate party isn't new. Tim Dobson stood in the parliamentary election in Gorton in 2010, where he got a grand total of 236 votes. That means 0.6% of the people who voted in Gorton voted for him.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Tim DobsonApril 27th 2012.

Thanks for your support Anonymous!

It wasn't a stunning result in 2010 - we were finding the ropes and building awareness.

I'm pleased to see Kevin weigh in and engage in the debate, though I suspect given that has Maria has lived in the city centre for 10 years and is well embedded in the community, there's a bit of political posturing going on.

I guess it's fair enough, but personally I'd prefer to see less arbitrary political attacks and hear more about what actually issues people feel should be dealt with.

Tim Dobson / @tdobson

AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

Anon 2 - I would rather put my faith in someone who can actually change things and for that to happen I think Marc ramsbottom needs to be voted out, so that the lib Dems in this city realise they need to take stock of themselves, stop being cheerleaders for this awful coalition and instad stick up for manchester people - and send a message to the lib dems centrally that they need to rethink their tory lapdog strategy. Realistically, the only way to achieve this is to vote for the labour candidate rather than a slightly odd fringe party that won't get elected.

That's what happened last year and kevin peel was elected. Now to be fair to him, he's not one of the usual shower of c*nts, as you so sweetly put it, but has worked like a b*stard for city centre residents over the past year.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 27th 2012.

This election isn't about "sending a message" to any national party, its about who can best represent their ward and their city.

This tribal nonsense and policy-free campaigning is exactly why voters are pissed off with politicians and politics. No wonder less than 25% to turn out...

Kevin PeelApril 26th 2012.

I welcome more parties entering the political arena and adding to the debate. But I think when it comes down to it, people want a candidate and a councillor who will speak to their issues, not a single issue party who don't have anything to say to local people. We've been working hard in the city centre over the last year and delivering results for city centre residents and I'm confident that will be reflected in the result for Joan Davies at the ballot box next Thursday!

Incidentally, does Confidential plan to profile other candidates?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 28th 2012.

I'm intrigued as to why you would think that a national party, with all the biases and pressures that a national platform and traditional rivalries that go with it, would be more able to represent local people than candidates for a small party that live in the local area.

If anything aren't the Pirates going to be more able to do what they think is right, rather than simply opposing what the other parties want to do?

I don't know, but personally I've had it with Lib Dems and Labour, I would never vote Tory and the pirates seem to be OK and making a bit of an effort.

Maria AretoulakiApril 30th 2012.

Many thanks for your kind words Anonymous! Indeed we at the UK Pirate Party are trying to make "politics" relevant to the local people, rather than limiting it to age-old rivalries between "us" and "them", "Manchester" and "London", "the UK" and "Europe" or the world. I am not an Orator but like all my colleagues at the Party I know how to listen and empathise, and only after decide what is important to the locals (as opposed to what is important for a Party Board of Governors). We hope to make this clear by standing and campaigning at this year's local elections. We already know very well how disillusioned with the main parties and how disinterested in elections and politics most people in Manchester are and we hope to change that; even if it's just to prod everyone to take part in the elections themselves (and hopefully after the elections take part in the decisions that affect them and their neighbours too).

Maria AretoulakiApril 30th 2012.

And regarding Kevin Peel's accusation that the Pirate Party is a "single issue party", I only have to say this: we don't just advertise (and hide?) behind catchy keywords such as "Education" and "the NHS", the terms are too vague and don't address either the problems or the solutions. We prefer to start with some core principles that will determine the optimal solutions to any and all the related social and economic issues: Council openness and transparency, digital equality and participation, human rights protection (including the right to data privacy).

We at the Pirate Party believe that in order for the citizens to know what's wrong and what needs to be corrected or improved in any area of society, from Basic Education, to Healthcare provision, to Rubbish collection, to Crime prevention, we all need access to facts in the form of Government / Council data. If we all know what types of contracts have been given to which private companies to collect our rubbish or install and maintain CCTVs cameras, or to which GPs to carry out which healthchecks and to give which jabs, we will - more directly - have access to hard data and statistics about the corresponding products and services paid for through our taxes, as well as data on their performance and effectiveness. Anyone can then identify and point out to the Council a discrepancy between the service paid for by us and the service actually provided (e.g. recycling van only coming round once rather than twice a week in my area, or CCTV cameras that we pay maintenance for but which don't record any footage, or Primary Schools that don't teach any foreign languages due to lack of teachers). We can then decide or demand a change in the provider or the service or the contract itself.

In order to have access to all this data however, we need to make it possible for all citizens to access this data over the internet (as well as for the Council to consistently publish it on the internet). This is why we think of digital participation as a basic citizen right. If we all have broadband access and can all use a computer and the internet, we can all become part of this democratic process. And that includes the older generations who don't even know how to write an email sometimes. It also includes the less well-off citizens who cannot afford such a "luxury". By training older people on the new communication media and by providing free WiFi to everyone, we will make sure both that everyone will have access and can object to or influence public decisions on issues that affect them and their neighbourhoods. It also means that older people will be able to network with more people their age and younger (e.g. their expatriate offspring) to counter their isolation and improve their social lives but also their cognitive skills, e.g. by learning new things and by engaging in public affairs (all of which can prevent health problems and illnesses such as Alzheimer's - How do you like this as a big, original and radical NHS-related policy?). Younger people can get access to online training courses and apprenticeship opportunities, and young and older adults access to job openings and continuing education (translation: Education / Job creation / Cutting down on Unemployment).

And by broadening digital participation to every age and social group, we also need to think about and protect our digital freedoms: ensuring the privacy of our personal data (financial and otherwise), as well as the security of public information (keywords: Security, Crime, Terrorism).

I don't really want to write a Pirate Party Manifesto in this comment, but I just wanted to prove that we are dealing with all social and economic issues without feeling the need to "label them the usual way". You can only find new solutions, if you look at old problems in a different way.

And if anyone turns round and calls "Government openness", "transparency", "digital equality and participation", "personal freedoms protection" and "privacy protection" a single issue, I would advise you to question their motivation for doing so.

Kevin PeelApril 26th 2012.

Oh and thanks for the praise, Anon! It's not often you hear it as a councillor!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 27th 2012.

If you manage to save Granada House from being butchered or demolished, you will go up in my estimation. The recent Council report on the framework for the site was a masterpiece of obfuscation. In fact it said nothing of any substance whatsoever.

Kevin PeelApril 27th 2012.

My colleague Joan and I are certainly working on it. I think the council has come up with a strong vision for how it would like to see the area, but it's difficult to put in details at this stage - particularly when the council has no real control over what the new owner decides to do. We will however keep making the case!

AnonymousApril 30th 2012.

That's good to hear. Fingers crossed. In my opinion if we lose Granada House, it will be an act of cultural vandalism on a par with the destruction of the Hacienda.

AncoatsMay 4th 2012.

Sad thing is that there are probably way more actual pirates in the world today than actual votes cast for the pirate party in Manc yesterday.

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