Linux Format

Manifesto of the people

Jonni Bidwell’s political views have probably gotten him on all kinds of lists. Now, after meeting James Smith, he’s convinced open democracy is the way forward.


James Smith is Head of Labs at the Open Data Institute. Like many in the UK, James (@floppy on Twitter) was frustrated at the state of UK politics. Unlike many though, he took his software wrangling skills and used them to make a stand, starting his own political party, Something New. He stood for election in 2010, and while this was unsuccessf­ul he has continued to develop the idea of an open source party manifesto, central to the syncretic vision of Something New. We met him after his talk at OSCON Europe to discuss his experience. You can read his call to action “It’s Time to Step Up” at its-time-to-step-up.

Linux Format: Before braving the lion’s den that is politics, you were a software engineer, what sort of stuff did you work on?

James Smith: I still am a software engineer – I haven’t fallen entirely to the dark side just yet – but yes, I worked on all sorts: biometrics, flight simulation for a while, more recently web based stuff. I spent a few years working on climate change type startups and then more recently working on open data –getting more accountabi­lity and transparen­cy informatio­n out there. Always trying to make the world a better place. LXF: What was your introducti­on to open source? JS: Gosh, I guess it would’ve been when I was working on my PhD, back in ‘99. We were working with open source code and trying to get other code opened up. But since then it’s been a big part of my entire career.

LXF: You mentioned that you worked to improve democratic accountabi­lity, can you tell us a little about that? JS: Yes, that was a project called Save Parliament, a nice simple and achievable goal. There was a bill passed in 2006 called the Legislativ­e and Regulatory Reform Bill, which sounded really, really boring. But in it there was

ON ‘something new’ “We’re a party that doesn’t want to exist. We shouldn’t need to be there.”

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