Armando Iannucci: The day I joined the DIY revolution and set up my own police force

Inspired by the Conservative manifesto, Armando Iannucci decided to take the law into his own hands

Sunday 23 October 2011 00:26

We are the generation We've been waiting for. We are the kingmakers. We are invited to form the next government because We are at the heart of all our lives which, in turn, are central to what We are and who We stand for.

I'm getting sick of We. We comes out on two occasions.

Firstly, when a party's been roundly defeated for a long period of time.

Rather than admit that all their vote-losing policies were the product of reality-insulated politicos spending too much time in committee meetings and not enough time going to the shops or wondering why it takes at least eight visits from British Gas before a simple boiler can be fixed, defeated political parties relaunch themselves with the brainwave that if only politicians listened to what the decent, hard-working people of Britain had to say, then common political discourse would be irreversibly changed for the better.

So, throughout the Eighties Labour conducted many "listening" campaigns and, over the past 10 years, as their percentage share of the vote went down, Labour conducted a number of "Big Conversations", "rolling debates", "meet the people" events and other manifestations of Scum Engagement to show they'd really got the message.

The second outpouring of We comes when all the money runs out.

A Government or Opposition that knows there's no money to spend still has to look like it's got a whole raft of things to do if elected. Allowing the public to have more say in how things are run fulfils the need to look active while keeping things cheap.

It also has the welcome corollary of shunting responsibility on to the public so that when things do go tits up (as they do when you have no money to sort things out) you can turn to the public and say it was their fault.

This election is the first time in about 40 years when both sets of circumstances have coincided: the Tories have been out of office for 13 years, yet are trying to get back in when the country's destitute.

It's the Perfect Storm of We, so it's no surprise that David Cameron's unleashed the biggest wave of "From Now On You're In Charge" since Richard the Lionheart left for Damascus.

But this is ultra-We. It's not just a few pat phrases about consumer choice. Instead, it's a fully-thought-through philosophy about reducing the role of government and galvanising local communities into action.

Mr Cameron's rationale is that faster communication has made social networking a fact of life, so why not utilise this for everyone's benefit?

With that in mind, I tried some cyber-politics of my own this week.

I used Twitter to announce I wanted to set up my own police force.

I soon had a thousand volunteers, who christened it the Twitterforce.

We then took a vote on which part of the UK to police.

The wisdom of the crowd said "Wigan" so I charged my volunteers with the policing of Wigan's streets from midnight last Tuesday. In no time at all, I faced demands for a slogan to go with the force.

Suggestions flooded in, and I put the three best to the vote.

They were "Yes Wi-Gan!", "Things Are Going To Get Battered" and "A Fair Choice For Change".

Within seconds, voting websites were put up online, with bar-charts and graphs.

"Yes Wi-Gan!" triumphed, posters were designed and that evening were taken to the Wigan Athletic match.

Next, I faced demands from my swelling ranks of volunteers for some laws, so they knew what to arrest people for.

Again, everything was put to a network vote.

We, the People, spoke, and established that in Wigan you could be arrested for: whistling made-up tunes; carrying small dogs when they can clearly walk; starting talking when your turn is clearly over, and touching too much fruit or vegetables in the supermarket.

Soon copies of these laws were printed off and posted up round Wigan, and within seconds an arrest was made.

There were also strong demands for capital punishment for some of these offences, which is when I decided to shut the Twitterforce down on the grounds that this is how Hitler probably started. What Pol Pot would have done with a Facebook group only beggars belief.

So my experiment in We ended. I don't know what it taught me. Mr Cameron could claim it shows how much untapped energy there is in our communities.

My suspicion is it merely confirms how much actual energy we can put into mucking about while pretending to work.

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