Happy New Year.
This time is always a period to look back over the year that has gone, and see what it means for the year to come. At times, it seemed like there was almost too much news in 2011. So many certainties seemed to fall away, perhaps the scariest part of the last 12 months, yet also it shows the future can be different. It is that determination and optimism that characterises the Pirate movement for me.
These days, one of the chief problems that any new movement faces is surviving the first flash of excitement. People's attention spans, particularly online, can be short. During 2011 Pirate Party UK has come the other side of that period stronger in my opinion.
We had a successful first conference- I am sure all of us who heard Rick Falkvinge speak were hugely inspired. More people than ever before had the opportunity to vote Pirate thanks to the work of the Scottish teams. We had our best ever election result in local elections in Bury. The policy consultation process saw hundreds of contributions. Local, national and international media carried our message. Behind the scenes, the Party is on a much more secure organisational footing- not the stuff of headlines, but crucial for the next steps ahead.
Abroad, I think we have all been excited by the achievements of the German Pirate Party, in particular the breakthrough in the Berlin vote. This truly shows what is possible. Like so much else in 2011, few would have predicted it at the beginning of the year.
However, in the UK because of our electoral system we know we have to work at least 10 times as hard. 2011 did not see the kind of democratic change so many of us hoped for, whatever our personal views on AV. But it is no good dwelling on that. We need to be planning how to gain influence, and get elected in 2012 as things are. Our views are too important to be left on the sideline complaining, we need to effect change.
Civil liberties, the riots and freedom
We have been very good at commenting on the big issues- civil liberties, riots, media ownership, Internet freedom, IP reform, privacy, the role of the US. I am passionate about all of these things. But they require patient work and for real change we will need a lot more people on board, and break out of the echo chamber we can too easily fall in to.
For 2012 where we have the possibility to make a mark is in local elections. And we can make a positive mark. As opposed to condemning, we have a lot to offer in ideas and as candidates. Schools need our approach to make education fit for the 21st century. Local democracy needs to be revitalised by transparency. Open data can empower communities to take control of every day issues like traffic crossings and council spending. Our libraries should become beacons of the kind of free culture we support.
It might be that you don't think typical local politics gripes like pot holes are as vital as ACTA. But if we aspire to be a movement that is open to citizen power, then we need to be open to all issues. If we aspire to be representative politicians, then we need to be able to see outside of our own immediate concerns.
From what we have learnt in 2011, I know we can apply in 2012 to move us on in gaining influence. Here at the beginning of 2012 the lesson from 2011 is, don't rule anything out. Scary, maybe. But exciting, yes.
Happy New Year.