Spending Challenge: back with a whimper
George Osborne is nothing if not persistent. First his much-derided Spending Challenge website was taken down after being swamped with racist and other offensive statements. Then his Spending Challenge Facebook page – announced via a much-trailed web conference between David Cameron and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – was deleted after it was beaten by a goat. And, finally, Robin Hood Tax launched their own, much more sensible, alternative.
But Spending Challenge is back for more.
Yesterday the Treasury unveiled a sanitised version of the website – with all visitor comments deleted – and asked the public to rate more than 44,000 suggestions received. The deadline is 31 August, which, as Chaminda Jayanetti points out, gives us a little over two minutes 20 seconds to consider each idea, assuming we don't stop to sleep.
Fortunately, most of the suggestions can be dealt with in rather less than two minutes. Despite the Great Cull, a disturbing number are still of the "I'm not racist but..." variety, while others are mind-numbingly repetitive, such as the hundreds calling for the High Speed 2 rail link to be scrapped. (An organised lobby? Surely not.)
But some of our favourite proposals have made it through, even though we did lose the popular "Beef and vegetable casserole" recipe and a "windfall tax on Tim Worstall". So there's still time to tell government to "wait until at least three fires have broken out in the same area before sending firemen out", "divert all welfare funding to nuclear weapons" (would that induce a Lib Dem veto?), and "FORCE MAN U 'FANS' TO LIVE IN MANCHESTER".
But if you only have time to vote for one idea, make it this:
"Create a website where the entire population of the UK can make absurd suggestions on how the Government can save money. Allow easy access and registration so that users can create multiple accounts to vote on their own suggestions."
Indeed that second sentence remains true. Astonishingly you can use the same fictitious email address to register and vote as many times as you like. The system doesn't even check your IP address to stop multiple voting from the same computer. MyDavidCameron.com had a more secure voting system than that – and that was about choosing funny posters, not deciding who should lose their jobs.
Some more reasonable submissions have made it past the censors too, though, including:
- Privatisation costs money
- Support a Robin Hood Tax on banks
- Renationalise the railway network
- Don't cut public sector jobs
- We do not need Trident
and, with startling clarity and irrefutable logic:
So, although Spending Challenge is devoid of legitimacy, it probably doesn't do any harm to vote for these – and what you do behind closed doors is up to you. Not that Osborne will be listening: his real consultation – the one with his City friends – also takes place behind closed doors, far from the maddening crowdsourcing of Spending Challenge.