Most of you will have seen and read news stories about the new UN report on mobile phones today. This stresses the positive impact of how the mobile phone has allowed business to thrive in unlikely parts of the world and bypassed lack of infrastructure. All of this is very predictable but, as this is a political blog, I want to mention a couple of brief points about the influence of mobile phones on the self-important political world.
It seems to me that the mobile phone was made for politics. It enhances egos because the constant chatter and scheming makes the phone user feel more important. The world revolves around the politician, at least in his or her earphones. It is reassuring that your role does matter if people are constantly trying to get hold of you and spin stories.
People in the political world have perhaps always existed in a day to day context, but the mobile phone makes this minute to minute. There is no time to prepare for the next debate or round-table, but you simply rush there and talk to your advisor on the mobile.
Political intrigue and scandal would be much poorer without the mobile phone. Just think how many stories have broken because of a careless text or voicemail message? You might think that politicians would learn to leave mobile phones alone because of these dangers, but of course they actually love this gossip and encourage it.
The mobile phone has perhaps become the most essential item for the politician to remember in the morning. If s/he forgets his papers they can be printed again, and if he forgets his wallet he can borrow form his researcher, but his mobile…that doesn’t bear thinking about.
Just imagine if politics had a week without mobile phones? Everyone would rush around like keystone cops, and people would have to actually prepare before all their meetings instead of hopping on the train or taxi and frantically texting ‘what is this meeting about?’. Perhaps it would lead to a lessening of activity and more substantial time to think about issues that matter, but maybe I am being naive. Party conference would certainly be amusing because everyone relies on the mobile phone to such an extent that it would become utterly chaotic (or, perhaps I should say, even more chaotic). People would turn up at the wrong meetings – perhaps Mandelson would inadvertently go to the global warming debate…
In short, the mobile phone has a lot to answer for, but it is a political animal.