Pirate Party London

How would the Pirate Party’s crowdsourced manifesto help students?

The UK Pirate Party has just published its 2015 General Election manifesto, widely publicised as the first crowdsourced election manifesto in the UK.

The party has been crowdsourcing its policy ever since 2011 when it launched the project ‘Steal This Manifesto’, using a dedicated subreddit to open discussion on what sort of policies they should adopt.

Last month saw two and a half weeks of suggestions and debate on reddit and the Pirate Party community forums. Party members then voted on which ideas should make it into the manifesto.

I’ve written previously about how the Pirate Party could well be the party for the “digital generation.” But students aren’t only young people, and student issues cover a wider ground than just the internet. So does the Pirate Party have anything else it can offer students?

Free tuition fees and EMA!

What’s encouraging is that one of the Pirate Party’s key policies on education is that it should be a lifelong right. The Pirate policy of scrapping tuition fees hasn’t changed in the run-up to the General Election, and they advocate the reinstatement of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

The policy of supporting open access to academic research was one of the more popular on reddit, and the Pirate Party also plans to boost scientific research in the UK by raising the budget to 0.8% of GDP, in line with the G8 average.

Surprisingly perhaps for a party which is campaigning for copyright reform, the Pirate Party wants to make patent licensing compulsory – but with legal exemptions for non-commercial use, personal study and academic research.

So far, so good for education and academia

Students would also stand to benefit from the policy of promoting free public Wi-Fi and internet access in community centres and libraries. The party has chosen to take a strong stand in promoting accessibility, stating: “It’s vital no-one is excluded from the digital revolution.” They would obligate publishers to provide a DRM-free copy of their product for the use of accessibility programs (like text-to-speech eBook readers) and would increase the availability of audio descriptions and subtitles.

The Pirate policies on work and welfare also look good for students about to enter the workplace. If the Pirate Party had its way, it would end age discrimination in the benefits system, so claimants of Job Seeker’s Allowance and housing benefit would receive the same amount regardless of age.

Intern rights

Employers providing internships would be required to pay their interns the National Minimum Wage, putting an end to free labour through internships.

At the same time, the party would raise the National Minimum Wage in line with recommendations by the Living Wage Foundation, and look into providing a Universal Basic Income for all UK citizens in the long term.

It might seem easy enough for a small party with little chance of getting into government to design an appealing set of policies, knowing that it won’t have to put them into practice any time soon. But by crowdsourcing its manifesto, the Pirate Party has demonstrated a willingness to listen to the people, and put what they want front and centre of its campaign.

With an increasingly diverse political landscape giving small parties a much louder voice, the Pirate Party is shaping up to be a strong voice for students as well as a strong voice for people generally.


The above was written be Rebecca Sentance and was originally published on the London Student. It is reproduced here by kind permission of the author

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