Last year, in Massachusetts, we saw open source being used as a political football. But the underlying issue in that case was technological, the state's adoption of ODF as a standard format.
Now, in England, we're again seeing open source being used by politicians. This time, however, it's entirely on behalf of politics.
The Conservative Party, which has its best chance of taking power in a decade, is now using the idea of open source as a wedge issue, a way to talk about its approach to governance using popular terms like "bottom-up" and "transparency."
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (left) did claim there would be 600 million pounds in savings from the switch (about $1.15 billion) but his real target was the secretive Labour way of doing government's business.
He went far beyond software procurement, talking of using social networking sites to organize and promote political action, and about using the Internet to lend transparency to government decisions.
Osborne's ideas drew approval from the Liberal Democrats, the country's third party, which has been campaigning for open source software in schools. That's important, because if the next election shows no party with a majority in Parliament, a coalition will be needed, and there was a signal here that Liberal Democrats might possibly go with the Tories (as the Conservatives are called).
Our own Rupert Goodwins (right) writes that Osborne "gets it" on IT issues. But experience tells me that when a poiltician claims to "get it," you had best check carefully to see which end of the fishing line the hook is lodged. It's likely to be in you, not him (or her).
So is this a good thing or not? Is it the old political shell game, or is open source software really a winning political issue for our time? And when might we see Barack Obama or Rudy Giuliani (or Fred Dalton Thompson) at a server farm near you?