Doing a Clelland when they should be doing databases

2 July, 2008

I bet there has not been a single MP in the House of Commons who hasn’t at some point wanted to do a Clelland and tell a constituent where to get off. Personally I really don’t have any sympathy with MP’s who do this kind of thing. Really they should be above this even if they are having a bad day.

There are however interesting challanges as to how the MP-constituent relationship can be developed and deepend. Presently constituents may see them in the media, may if there lucky get a leaflet on a sort of regular basis, be canvassed though that is turning into a minority sport or they can email or write to the member.

There are problems with this arrangement. The information that gets conveyed from voters to the MP primarily comes from the agitated about a particular issue or a small section of the electorate that will contact a politician at a drop of a hat. Frankly there is nothing wrong in this, its how democracy actually happens but there are things that can be done to improve the MP-constituent relationship.

MP’s need to be more interested in the opinions of people who don’t often contact Members of Parliament. I think the best way to do this is for local parties with Members of Parliament to collect email addresses from as many contituents as possible and if they consent they can be emailed a very short survey every once in a while. Over time this enables constituents to tell MP’s how they feel about issues and it enables MP’s to build up a picture of the electorate.

For example an MP may have asked questions about environmental issues. Before an election they can interogate the database to find out which constituents actually care about the issue, they can then send them an email or direct mail setting out how they worked to represent them.

The benefits of this approach are that Members of Parliament will be much more sophisticated in what they know about their constituents, be able to better represent them and communicate with them about issues they care about rather than things they don’t. The costs are getting a database which can be an open source one, paranoia about data security, making sure that the party collects emails during campaigning and a little time and effort. All in all it’s only the IT illiteracy of most MP’s that holds them back.



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