The Conservatives' (attempted) deletion of history

15 November 2013

Earlier this week, the UK Conservative party deleted press releases and speeches from their website from the years 2000-2010, ie. until just before they were elected into government. 

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Alex Hern sums up their actions brilliantly in this article; suffice to say, the Internet is not amused. As a key player in UK political history, it is their responsibility to archive the role they have played, the promises they made, and their supposed intentions for when they got elected.  They've also tried to delete their Youtube videos, including an up close and personal web series with Cameron, imaginatively named 'Webcameron'. 

It's ironic that some of the deleted speeches outlined their intention to use the internet to be more transparent and to encourage accountability; my favourite quote so far comes from George Osbourne's speech 'Open Source Politics'”;

We need to harness the internet to help us become more accountable, more transparent and more accessible - and so bridge the gap between government and governed.

The democratization of access to information...is eroding traditional power and informational imbalances.

No longer is there an asymmetry of information between the individual and the state, or between the layperson and the expert.

...well, there might not be if you didn't delete it, George. The New Statesman has collected a great selection of such quotes here. 

But surely the Conservatives removing the videos, speeches and press releases from their site can't really mean that they've gone forever? Let's see.

They may have taken the step of stopping the Internet Archive from taking snapshots of their site, and getting rid of the ones it already had, as Computer Weekly (who first reported on this whole story) explain but it appears as though this didn't affect their site being captured by the UK Web Archive.

A former colleague of mine also pointed out that any speeches made in formal fora would likely have been recorded in the minutes of sessions and meetings, and as such, might be available under the UK Freedom of Information Act

So, despite their best attempts to delete their (and our) history, what do we still have? Aside from the grand total list of 19 speeches that are now still listed on the Conservatives website (!) - there are a couple of other ways round it. (hat tip to this Guardian article for pointing these sources out- I just wanted to set the links out more comprehensively) 

Are there any more sources out there? Ping me @zararah!

And other sources of internet humour on this topic; Labour making the most of the Conservatives' mess (screen capture below); BuzzFeed's 6 speeches the Conservatives don't want you to see. 

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