Crowdpac is an open platform, and the new politics is coming

People with all kinds of perspectives are using our platform to open up politics.

Paul Hilder
27 March 2017

Steve Hilton, WikimediaTelling fact from fiction can sometimes be a challenge – particularly in this age of fake news, clickbait and spin. To take just one recent example, last Friday the Telegraph ran a story that Arron Banks and Steve Hilton were “teaming up” under the headline, “Ukip's biggest donor and David Cameron's former strategist in plot to oust 100 Remain MPs”. Sounds like a big deal, right?

I am Steve’s co-founder at Crowdpac, the open platform for new politics. As the person who runs all of Crowdpac outside of the US – where Steve focuses his own attention – I am quite sure that I would know of any such plot. But that headline took me completely by surprise, because it was nonsense on stilts.

@Livlonanprsper what are you talking about? @CrowdpacUK is an open platform for all - check it out and get involved!

— steve hilton (@SteveHiltonx) March 24, 2017

This, of course, did not prevent the story from being repeated far and wide: from The Express to The Huffington Post, and all over social media. How did it happen?

Take a moment to notice the quote marks nestling quietly around the Telegraph headline, and ask yourself: what’s really going on?

The architect of Leave.EU, Banks once famously said, “The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact – it doesn’t work. You’ve got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.” He and his wingman Andy Wigmore have enthusiastically embraced the post-truth world. Someone should ask them one day if they’ve ever studied the work of Vladimir Putin’s grey cardinal, political technologist Vladislav Surkov. They are certainly keen on the uses of big data and artificial intelligence.

The facts are as follows. Crowdpac is an open platform for new politics  –  a place where anyone can crowdfund a campaign or nominate someone for office. We also provide voter information: for example, we map politicians’ positions transparently using big data to help you decide who to support.

As co-founders, Steve Hilton and I come from opposite sides. While he was the Che Guevara of David Cameron’s Conservatism, I was building networked movements and platforms like 38 Degrees, Avaaz and (and having rather less success in persuading Labour to get their act together…).

Today, Steve and I agree that the existing political system is breaking down, and that big money and vested interests have too much power.

During the last week the Greens raised over £10,000 to fund their by-election campaign in Manchester Gorton:

— Paul Hilder (@paulhilder) March 24, 2017

We are proud to be an open platform with a democratic mission. We talk all the time to politicians and campaigners from the left, the right and the centre.

Crowdpac is still a start-up, but we have already hosted a wide range of campaigns on our platforms in the US and the UK. Over $6 million was pledged to a campaign pressuring Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Black Lives Matter co-founder DeRay McKesson crowdfunded his run for Mayor of Baltimore on the platform. Doctor Kathryn Allen raised almost $500,000 on Crowdpac in the last two weeks to challenge leading Congressional Republican Jason Chaffetz.

In the UK, a wide range of Labour campaigns have successfully crowdfunded on Crowdpac, from the pro-Corbyn Momentum to the anti-Corbyn Labour First. Last week, the Greens raised over £10,000 to fund their by-election campaign in Manchester Gorton. Crowdpac has hosted several anti-Brexit campaigns in the UK, including the wonderfully creative We Are Europe (who produced the Trump-Boris kiss image and were later described as an “Anti-Brexit Gang” on the front cover of the Sun); and the Deliveroo drivers also crowdfunded their strike fund on our platform.

Of course, being politically open and non-partisan, we encourage campaigns and campaigners from all sides to use our platform. We have discussed the benefits of using Crowdpac with Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and those who are or have been affiliated with UKIP, including Douglas Carswell and Arron Banks. In principle, all are welcome. (We also recently launched in France for the presidential elections, and have been talking with campaigns there.)

Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore are controversial but effective campaigners. They are preparing to launch a new political movement called The Patriotic Alliance, which will attempt to replace UKIP by becoming a new Trumpian force in the UK. Before Christmas they talked about running hundreds of “independent” candidates to “drain the swamp” of British politics. They want to copy innovations like the direct democracy championed by the Italian Five Star Movement. They obviously seem keen on using Crowdpac, I imagine for multiple reasons. We’ve talked with them on more than one occasion; but I don’t know when they’ll set up their first campaign.

Our conversations with Douglas Carswell go further back. When I covered his by-election campaign in a 2014 “new politics” feature for the New Statesman, he spoke enthusiastically about Steve. Douglas has just declared himself as an independent MP this weekend; and I understand Crowdpac features significantly in his new book Rebel.

.@crowdpacUK do wonderful work opening up politics to everyone. Authentically anti oligarch - not angry nativists @paulhilder

— Douglas Carswell (@DouglasCarswell) March 24, 2017

Of course, Arron Banks and Douglas Carswell are not the best of political friends. So why are they both so interested in Crowdpac – an open platform where anyone can start their own campaigns? Perhaps because it works.

Democracy dies in darkness; and it has never been clearer that the status quo is failing. It is time for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee. I lost a decade of my life to postmodernism in the 1990s, but it turned out to be good training for this bewildering moment.

I believe firmly in truth, transparency and good old-fashioned democracy. I am unillusioned about the current crisis in our institutions, and determined to renew them for the networked age. For good or ill, I believe we could look back on this moment as the West’s 1989. I set out my analysis of the currently unfolding Political Revolution in a long-read essay which will appear in next month’s Prospect magazine. But as a co-founder of openDemocracy, it feels appropriate to publish this real-time clarification here.

Take any remaining scrap of complacency you may be clinging onto, light it on fire and throw it overboard. There are no guard-rails, no leaders smart enough to outsource all the answers to, and no guarantees of victory for the people you think are on the side of good. As Peter Thiel’s political consigliere Rob Morrow wrote back in 2008, this is a “Bull Market In Politics”. It’s time to get involved. Support a campaign you agree with – or start your own. Stand for office, or nominate someone else for any role in the country. The future will be built by what each one of us does now.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


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