A View From Across The Pond

I spend a lot of my days on the intertubes, and often find myself discussing, and/or promoting the Pirate Party ideology, often ending in an suggestion that the person join their local party. Most of the time, they’ve heard of the Pirate Party, but maybe 20% of the time, they think it’s Sweden only. Piratpartiet has (if you’ll excuse the marketing talk) ‘international brand awareness’ in the techie group, but now it needs to embrace the other 90% of the electorate, because the issues are not just confined to those 10%, but affect everyone.

When Rick first told me he was planning on stepping down today as Piratpartiet leader, it surprised me, but after thinking about it for a few days, I could see his reasoning. When I discussed it with him, a few days ago, our thoughts were in sync; the technical base has been addressed, but there needs to be greater ‘mass market’ appeal, which is harder to get with a ‘techie’ at the head, which was why I was honoured by his request for a guest post for today.

Rick hasn’t thrown in the towel though. He might be stepping down as party leader (just as I stepped down from the US party a month ago) but we both still believe in the ideas and concepts and are actively promoting those, just outside the traditional party structure, as ‘activists’ or ‘evangelists’.

Not that I’m in the same league as Rick (as he’s proved to me time and again), as I’m merely a follower on the trail he started blazing 5 years ago, and which is burning brightly across much of the world. In the summer of 2007, he outlined a plan for the EU elections (called Next Step 09) which led to success for them (and for Christian and Amelia). The party has made itself aware around the world, from British MPs (erroneously) stating Rick was in jail, to the US diplomatic presence in Sweden worrying about the popular support he was generating.

Yet, growth is as much about change as it is size, just as it is with parenting. As a baby, parents have to act in a certain way, and as the children get older, the parenting has to change to deal with that growth and maturity. You can’t treat a 14 year old as you would a 14 month old, or a 8 year old (speaking as the father of 3 children)and so it is with the party. Initially, it needed a base of support, and now it has that, it needs to be more effective at addressing the wider public.

Many of us techies have recognized the problem. When asked a question, we go on in detail too much and go too far with overly technical descriptions and jargon (I certainly do), which can often come across as condescending. In a techie-job, it’s often forgiven, but in politics, if can leave you crucified, or generate bad feeling. There are two ways to deal with this, you can purposefully attempt to restrict yourself, or you can restructure things to make things ‘less techie’. The big disadvantage with the first option is that it can be hard to keep it in mind, and you’re not acting naturally, which comes across. It’s why scientists traditionally make terrible TV presenters (there are some examples, such as Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain, but it’s the exception, not the rule)

This leads the second option, of restructuring things to present a more ‘general-public’ friendly face. I’m not saying Rick’s not a great public speaker (he is), he’s just got a techie’s outlook (which I can sympathize with, being an engineer myself). Anna’s a writer, which means effective communication is at her core, just as effective ideas are at the heart of a techie.

To many, The Pirate Party will always be ‘Rick’s baby’ but at the same time, after 5 long years of hard work, he needs somewhat of a rest. I spent 18 months as head of the US party, followed by 9 months as the head of PPI, and the stress of that was incredible. I don’t know how he does it, just as I wonder if Anna knows exactly what she’s getting into. Even so, I’ll be wishing her the very best in her new role, and reminding her available for a chat whenever she feels like one, and I hope to be able to work as well with her, and I have with Rick over the years.

In the meantime, a happy fifth birthday to both the Piratpartiet, and to the world Pirate movement, and a Happy New Year to everyone else.


  1. Predabot

    Very interesting. I didn’t even know there WAS a US-based Pirate-party! Considering your two-party system, I thought it was more or less an impossibility.

    Good to see that there are Pirates as devoted as you, in the big land of the west! =)

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