Wiping out promises? UK ruling party deletes 10 years of speeches from its website
All of the records of Party
promises stretching back to 2000 have been deleted from the
website. The move was flagged by Computer Weekly website who took
a screenshot of the Conservative Party’s website before and after
the speeches were struck from the record.
Rather than just removing records from the site, the Conservatives also sought to remove them from US-based internet archive Wayback Machine that captures screenshots of web pages. Using a software robot, they managed to block user access to the Wayback Machine’s backlog.
“Rather than just removing it from the Conservatives’ website, they’ve tried to remove it from the internet archive. When he [David Cameron] became Prime Minister, one of the first promises he made was: “this will be the most open government ever,” and that’s clearly not the case,” George Eaton from the New Statesman magazine told RT’s Poly Boiko.
Yet according to Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of conservative think-tank the Bow Group, the change does not amount to any conspiracy. It is simply a matter of practicality.
“The real reason behind it is that the Conservative party is keen for its latest policies to appear right at the top of the Google search,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all and I think for the vast, vast majority of information it’s been recorded on other websites and indeed the British library has all of the archived information from 2004 to 2010, which would include any speeches relevant to any policy changes that David Cameron has made during this period in government.”
Before David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, he styled himself as a champion of the so-called “democratization of the internet.”
“You've begun the process of democratizing the world's information,” he told Googlers at the Google Zeitgeist Europe Conference, on 22 May 2006. "Democratizing is the right word to use because by making more information available to more people, you're giving them more power.”
This statement has since disappeared from the Tory website, along with other key promises concerning cuts to the UK’s National Health Service and government benefits.
“With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS…So yes, I’m proud to say the Conservatives will stop these pointless, retrogressive re-organizations and closures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS,” Cameron said in 2010. Upon being elected, the government went on to preside over one of the largest reorganizations in NHS history.
Cameron’s pre-election pledge not to change the government’s child benefit policy is also mysteriously absent from the Conservatives’ web page.
“I like the child benefit, I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means-test it,” Cameron said in 2010, after which the Coalition scrapped the welfare payment for higher earners and froze it for the rest of UK families.
UK media is now speculating whether the move was a tactic to deprive the rival Labour Party of ammo with which to criticize the Conservatives.
The Conservative Party has refrained from addressing the issue of the deleted speeches and maintains the changes are part of a project to remodel the site for a new digital age.
“We're making sure our website keeps the Conservative party at the forefront of political campaigning,” a spokesperson told The Guardian. “These changes allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide – how we are clearing up Labour's economic mess, taking the difficult decisions and standing up for hardworking people.”