Will you put two fingers up to the political "robocallers"?

How to avoid telephone tactics in the run-up to the general election.

While you may seek cheap thrills from telling political campaigners exactly what you think of their parties, you've got no such capacity when you're hit with a so-called "robocall".

The Labour Party found itself in hot water recently when the Information Commissioner's Office said it had breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated "robocalls" -- voiced by the Coronation Street star Liz Dawn -- to 495,000 people. But the Lib Dems, the Tories and the SNP have used the gimmick, too.

In the run-up to the election, it's likely these and other telephonic tactics will be on the increase.

But fear not, because help is at hand for those who prefer not to receive their campaigning, unsolicited, down the dog and bone. A new website has been set up by the inventor Steve Smith, who made TV history on Dragon's Den last summer when he received offers from all five Dragons on the show for his trueCall nuisance-call-blocking device.

He's set up thepoliticalcallregister.co.uk. If you register on this site, Smith promises to send your details to the main political parties, asking them not to contact you by phone. If they persist, he's pledges, he will name and shame the culprits.

"This is a growing problem and the parties that do it are worse than cowboy telemarketers," Smith said. "These calls can be made for a penny each, so the politicians can very cheaply flood the country with calls. It is extremely intrusive."

Not everyone will be signing up for the service, mind. Smith's company carried out its own research with MORI in October 2008 and found that although most voters would not be happy if a political party rang them and played a recorded message, a sizable 25 per cent clearly quite like the sound of a political robot's voice.

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Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.