No 10 breaches its own rules

Observations on websites

Go to the 10 Downing Street website (www.number-10.gov.uk), click on the link that says "Prime Minister's political speeches" and you find yourself looking at a page that says: "New Labour" and "Join us". Moreover, the speeches themselves include such snippets as: "We inherited an economy, contrary to the mythology of our opponents, with many weaknesses"; or "the policies of a Conservative administration for 18 years had brought our country to the edge of a precipice".

Is this right for an official website, when the government's own information guidelines state that public money should be used to provide information about the government's activities, not party propaganda? Scott Wright, in Politics, the Political Studies Association's journal, suggests not, though he concedes the line is a fine one. "These statements are at least liable to the accusation of being party political, and are arguably tendentious and polemical, too," he writes.

Wright also points out that the site, according to its own blurb, is to encourage a "two-way link between government and people". He reports, however, that it responds to only 0.27 per cent of all messages sent to it by members of the public - and most of those referred to criticisms of the site itself rather than to criticisms of the government. Not much "two-way" about that.

Moreover, some of the more embarrassing public responses get deleted from the archive: for example, those on income tax and the self-employed, Ken Livingstone's attempts to win the Labour nomination for Mayor of London and GM foods.