Saturday, March 28, 2009

E-Representation

It is easy to criticise MPs, however for many there are various jobs they have to balance in order to do their job. A good MP will pay particular attention to the constituency, after all they are (as some state on Facebook profiles) their employer, but also because that is the fundamental purpose and justification for the British electoral system. However, being able to be a constituency MP can be a challenge. Talking to Jim Knight prior to the 2005 General Election about his promotion of the almost 6,000 pieces of casework he had dealt with since 2001 one got the sense of a very hard working MP but also that this was helped by the fairly easy journey between London and Weymouth (compared to many areas) and also his backbench status. The real challenge is for all MPs to find was to connect to their constituency and so represent their constituents fully.

Tom Brake may have found one solution that allows direct live contact from anywhere, the use of Facebook chat and messaging facilities. His first online Facebook surgery was held last night and he says it was a success and an experiment that will continue: "it was a great success and I'm delighted to speak to so many of you. People raised really interesting issues with me about parking, speed bumps, housing, disability services, care services, crime and schooling. I was delighted to be able to help answer you questions and will make online surgeries a regular thing". Tom brake is not a Minister but he is Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson and a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee so is required to be in Westminster more than a backbencher. His seat of Carshalton and Wallington is marginal (1,068 votes) so perhaps a driving force, though that is an entirely cynical view. But, if this was the success he suggests it perhaps offers a model of MPs; finding how to reach a section of constituents and using that to enhance their representative role. It can only be a supplement, not everyone is on Facebook, but it can also draw people to Facebook and so increase the amount of people he has access to. Of course in terms of his own personal standing, this additional level of accessibility cannot harm is reputation either. So, could this be a valuable addition to the communication tools of an MP?

1 comment:

Rathfelder said...

Facebook is fine for general concerns, but it isn't very good for people with personal problems which they want their MP to help them with. There is no way of checking that people are who they claim to be, and it is too easy for people with an axe to grind to waste people's time and attention.