UK Pirates to decide PPUK’s international direction

UK Pirates to decide PPUK’s international direction

Pirate Party UK is currently an ordinary member of Pirate Parties International (PPI) but it will be asking its membership whether it should stay a member, become an observer or leave. (If you are a member of PPUK, you can vote here).

It might sound like a strange thing to do (or possibly a very British approach…) but there are some good reasons for doing it now.  Firstly, and most importantly; in 2010 at the PPI’s founding conference the Pirate Party UK signed up with the PPI.  When it did, the party agreed to abide by its statutes and tied itself to its actions and statements.  However PPUK was pretty new in 2010, fighting its first ever elections and, for one reason or another, we didn’t hold a membership vote on the matter – it seems well past time to correct that.

The other reason is the reporting from our international coordinator.  A year ago we asked him to work with the PPI; even after all that time, his reports back to the NEC indicate that there are still some serious continuing issues within PPI.  Issues that could have an impact on us in the UK, and judging by the additional grey hairs and mildly haunted look, have had an impact on him.

So, the party has put out general information and cases for the three choices available to our members.  Those are also available for non-members from our site as four pdfs, an overview, the case for staying in PPI, the case for becoming an observer member and the case for leaving.

I think its important to take stock.  Just over a year ago I argued, against some concerted opposition, that PPUK should try to work more closely with PPI.  Secretly, of course, I was hoping to be appointed “grand high coordinator of the supreme pirate” (honest…) but, in public at least, I thought it might be good to see what we could do internationally.

At that time, arguments from within the PPI were legendary; I got a briefing on the PPI when I took on my current post and, frankly, it was a bit baffling.  Given that, the idea of engaging with the PPI or asking someone to do so seemed like a serious risk.  In fact, the PPI was seen by some as “fundamentally flawed and broken” and that attempting to fix it would be “less beneficial process than creating a new international body”.  In that environment, my asking to spend money to do so was not overly popular to say the least.  However, I wanted to see PPUK give PPI a decent chance, make sure we had people at the GA and conferences and make sure those people were capable.  So, we spent some money, dispatched a very valuable member and watched to see what would happen… at a safe distance, of course.

What we saw wasn’t really what I had hoped for – it certainly hurt my credibility after arguing for our continued involvement.  The bright spots (like the Pirate Times) were blotted out by continuing problems, especially when it came to finance.  Squabbling seemed to die down a little, but there was still a lot of discord and very little concrete movement in any useful direction.  There are still exchanges that are raw and abusive in tone, in a way that we would never find acceptable in today’s PPUK.  In short, the little we were able to do was not enough, the hard work of people within PPI wasn’t enough, the outcome, I think, wasn’t really good enough.

For a political party that holds a broad range of positions, some of which may be counter to other Pirate Parties in some areas (especially on issues reform within the European Union) the PPI can be problematic.  Not because there are parties that hold different views and we can’t have that(!) but because PPI fails to reflect that diversity.  In fact, the PPI could pose a real electoral nightmare if our opponents were to give it even a brief examination.  All the good work is essentially eclipsed by the silly spats and grandiose declarations that don’t quite hit the mark for anyone.

So in the next few weeks I will, in the best traditions of politics, be reversing my position on the PPI.  I will add that at least my reversal will be on the basis of some sound arguments and evidence (and so in line with PPUK principles!), but I will be arguing the case for PPUK leaving the PPI.  I look forward to seeing others make a case to remain.

I should be clear; I won’t be arguing that we join, or form another international grouping (unless of course someone offers me a title with ‘Grand high’ in it…), or that we create a PPI v2.  I don’t think that will solve the problems that the Pirate movement faces, I don’t think it will help us achieve what we want to achieve.

I’d like to see us focusing on our political aims as much as possible, as that is where we can actually achieve change.  Its amazing that every time I talk to a colleague in Germany, France, Luxembourg, Canada or the US, we all seem to be working in the same direction, on similar issues… we could do with working together on them where it’s doable.

We have to find better ways to work together internationally, that shouldn’t be a problem for Pirate Parties!  It’s true that we still need to meet and have conferences, but that happens anyway and would continue to happen even if the PPI were disbanded.  I would even argue that having international meets informally would mean we learn more about our respective parties, get more out of the formal bits of any meetings and possibly even meet more people than if we do everything within a stiff framework like that the PPI represents.

So whatever happens in the UK, whether we remain a part of the PPI or leave, we need to work on cooperation.  There is a lot that Pirate Parties all around the world agree on and much of what we believe in is under threat right now.  Whether it is PRISM, data protection in the EU, fighting for the interests of the visually impaired in WIPO or global attempts at site blocking, we must deal with these issues on an international level.  Getting distracted by internal politics is not something that makes a lot of sense at this time in that kind of environment.  So, with a bit of luck and a lot of effort, I hope that this process spurs members in the UK to get involved on the international side, whether through PPI or outside of it.  There is a lot we have to say and a lot to offer.  There is no better time than now to prove that Sharing is Caring and, possibly more importantly, that we, the Pirate Movement, can make a difference.

This article is a guest editorial by Andy Halsall, the Campaigns Officer for PPUK.

Andy Halsall PPUK Campaign manager



I have spent most of the last 20 odd years enthusing about technology and wondering at both the pace of change and the possibilities that have arisen from it.  At the same time I have become more and more aware that in terms of legislative effort and even understanding, the various governments we have seen since the dawn of the ‘information age’ have been somewhat lacking.

As a result, I see the Pirate Party as an ideal vehicle for positive change in those areas where others have failed and where even now there is too little emphasis.  I feel that in areas such as patents and copyright law urgent change is needed, in areas such as net-neutrality there are serious risks to the freedoms we currently enjoy and have made such good use of, but I also think the Pirate Party can be a positive force in many areas of public life – we deserve change for the better.

I’ve worked with the party on a number of elections now, seeing improvements at each turn, both in results and in the way we have approached them and drove PPUK’s policy process in 2012, leading to the party broadening its political aims and helping to shape the principles that will allow us to be a credible force in British politics.  As to my background, I am a former soldier and now father of 4.  I grew up largely outside of the UK (Germany and Hong Kong mainly) and am probably somewhat odd in that I didn’t go to university (largely because I didn’t think I could afford it…), again something that I find probably shapes my world view.