Politics and the web

29Nov07

In the US, politicians have long since been making use of the web as a key tool to encourage people to vote. Slowly, but surely, this trend is making its way across the water. Indeed, in a recent list published by ‘Short List Magazine’ Issue 22 on November 22nd, politics came out 7th in the top ten most blogged about subjects in the UK (perhaps unsurprisingly moaning came out top!).

Online communities can prove very powerful in raising the number of votes a particular party receives. Social networking sites in particular have great significance. By creating a group on a site like Myspace, a party can reach out to younger voters who would not normally be interested in politics. In some constituencies candidates have used the major networking sites (Myspace, Facebook and Bebo) to encourage participation in electons.

One such politician who I recently read about is Labour MP for Loughborough, Andy Read. Andy has his own blog, as well as profiles on all popular Social Networking sites. The benefits of this are quite clear – increased exposure and staying better connected with the citizens of Loughborough. Indeed Andy himself points out:

I aim to provide an effective service to my Loughborough constituents at every level – and that increasingly means via this website and other web 2.0 applications.

Politicians do need to tread very carefully on the web, however. Some sites I have found go as far as allowing discussion boards for people to post comments or share opinions. This material can often go against (or indeed be offensive) the views of the politician or their party. To some readers, this content could be seen as being promoted by the party.

Labourspace.com is a new venture similar to that which have already proved successful in the US. It allows the public to identify issues in their local area and create a campaign to promote it. People can then vote for or against the campaign, with the most popular issues highlighted on a monthly basis. At the time of writing, the most popular campaign was for more support to be given to UK inventors. Despite being the top pick of the month, only some 300 people had actually voted for the motion… showing that clearly the concept has only thus far reached out to a very small minority of Britains 60 million inhabitants.

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