OpenDemocracy needs your help

The site is just £50,000 short of its fundraising target.

OpenDemocracy, the digital commons which has hosted groundbreaking campaigns like OurBeeb and OurNHS, and insightful investigations like Cities in Conflict and oDRussia, an examination of the post-Soviet world, is just £50,000 short of its funding target.

The site, like many others in the same sphere, operates as a not-for-profit counter to corporate media, attempting to publish independent, public interest content. But such content is incredibly hard to make sustainably, and the site fell into debt while focusing on expansion over the past two years. As a result, it now needs to raise £250,000 by 31 March, or it will shut:

The aim is to achieve three things: clear our debts, cover current costs, and give the new Editor-in-Chief and his team time to build new funding relationships for 2014 onwards. Our target £250,000 will secure a new firm footing for openDemocracy.

Magnus Nome, openDemocracy's editor in chief, told me:

We offer a space that isn't available any other way, allowing experts and fresh voices from the ground the chance to present high-quality writing and analysis without being bound by the requirements of the corporate media.

It's impossible to get paid for content on the internet, so we depend on those who appreciate what we do and share our belief that it's an important thing. We have now raised £215,000 out of the £250,000 we need, and we believe that shows that others agree with us.

That still leaves another £35,000 to go. Donations can be made on its site, and the educational charity which supports it, openTrust, can accept gift aid on those donations as well.

"The crises of the epoch of market globalisation demand a world view that guards the gains of openness, human rights and democracy against a rising threat of neo-fascism and fundamentalisms," argue the team; openDemocracy is a much-needed organisation, and it can't be allowed to fall underwater now.

Show Hide image

After the “Tatler Tory” bullying scandal, we must ask: what is the point of party youth wings?

A zealous desire for ideological purity, the influence of TV shows like House of Cards and a gossip mill ever-hungry for content means that the youth wings of political parties can be extremely toxic places.

If you wander around Westminster these days, it feels like you’re stepping into a particularly well-informed crèche. Everyone looks about 13; no one has ever had a job outside the party they are working for. Most of them are working for an absolute pittance, affordable only because Mummy and Daddy are happy to indulge junior’s political ambitions.

It’s this weird world of parliament being dominated by under 25s that means the Tory youth wing bullying scandal is more than just a tragic tale. If you haven’t followed it, it’s one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read; a tale of thirty-something, emotionally-stunted nonentities throwing their weight around at kids – and a promising, bright young man has died as a result of it.

One of the most depressing things was that the stakes were so incredibly low. People inside RoadTrip 2015 (the campaigning organisation at the centre of the scandal) cultivated the idea that they were powerbrokers, that jumping on a RoadTrip bus was a vital precondition to getting a job at central office and eventually a safe seat, yet the truth was nothing of the sort.

While it’s an extreme example, I’m sure it happens in every political party all around the world – I’ve certainly seen similar spectacles in both the campus wings of the Democrats and Republicans in the US, and if Twitter is anything to go by, young Labour supporters are currently locked in a brutal battle over who is loyal to the party, and who is a crypto-Blairite who can “fuck off and join the Tories”. 

If you spend much time around these young politicians, you’ll often hear truly outrageous views, expressed with all the absolute certainty of someone who knows nothing and wants to show off how ideologically pure they are. This vein of idiocy is exactly where nightmarish incidents like the notorious “Hang Mandela” T-shirts of the 1980s come from.

When these views have the backing of an official party organisation, it becomes easy for them to become an embarrassment. Even though the shameful Mandela episode was 30 years ago and perpetrated by a tiny splinter group, it’s still waved as a bloody shirt at Tory candidates even now.

There’s also a level of weirdness and unreality around people who get obsessed with politics at about 16, where they start to view everything through an ideological lens. I remember going to a young LGBT Republican film screening of Billy Elliot, which began with an introduction about how the film was a tribute to Reagan and Thatcher’s economics, because without the mines closing, young gay men would never found themselves through dance. Well, I suppose it’s one interpretation, but it’s not what I took away from the film.

The inexperience of youth also leads to people in politics making decisions based on things they’ve watched on TV, rather than any life experience. Ask any young politician their favourite TV show, and I guarantee they’ll come back with House of Cards or The Thick of It. Like young traders who are obsessed with Wolf of Wall Street, they don’t see that all the characters in these shows are horrific grotesques, and the tactics of these shows get deployed in real life – especially when you stir in a healthy dose of immature high school social climbing.

In this democratised world of everyone having the ear of the political gossip sites that can make or break reputations, some get their taste for mudslinging early. I was shocked when a young Tory staffer told me “it’s always so upsetting when you find out it’s one of your friends who has briefed against you”. 

Anecdotes aside, the fact that the youth wings of our political parties are overrun with oddballs genuinely worries me. The RoadTrip scandal shows us where this brutal, bitchy cannibalistic atmosphere ends up.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.