Response 680983821

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1. What is your name?

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Marian Lewis

Elected representatives

6. Members of Parliament are elected to represent local people’s interests in the House of Commons. How can the internet and social media help with this?

Most MPs have personal websites where they can publicise their activities locally and nationally and show pictures of their involvement. Many MPs have a facebook page which can be updated daily (by support staff mostly) and many have a twitter account to alert followers to MPs views on current issues. David Davies in Monmouthshire is very quick to return phonecalls, and answer e-mails, and his very efficient support staff take action immediately whenever they can. I have seen David Davies take a photo at an event and immediately send it to his facebook page. I suspect most MPs are already using all social media to good effect, and do not need training, as they have trained support staff. Perhaps within their constituencies they could set up a questionnaire/referendum system whereby constituents could answer a few quick questions on an issue, and then they could better gauge local opinion.

7. Does social media enhance the local link for MPs, or undermine it by involving them in more national and international discussions?

Lobbying groups such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz often encourage their supporters to e-mail their MPs on particular issues, and many thousands do! This must create a large volume of work for MPs and support staff. The only way to deal with this is for the MP to compose a stock acknowledgement/response to the issue raised, and send to all. Perhaps an automatic acknowledgement could be generated, as long as there is a counting mechanism to measure the numbers raising the issue.

8. Use of interactive technology is increasing. Is this likely to increase pressure for more direct democracy, such as crowd-sourcing, referendums and citizens’ initiatives?

Not sure what crowd-sourcing means. It should be possible now to introduce an on-line referendum (one question!) system whereby central government could get speedy knowledge of public opinion on important national issues, but this would need a greater willingness on the part of the electorate to participate in national and international affairs! I think they do this in Switzerland. Once the system was in place it could also be used for elections, and it would save a lot of time and money esp for local governments. Citizens initiatives are already using the technology.

9. What will democracy look like in 15 – 20 years?

There will be greater participation in elections on the part of the electorate. Elections will all be conducted electronically - either from home or from many centres e.g. supermarkets where public computers will be installed for this purpose. Elections will be conducted over several days, to give busy people more opportunity to remember to vote. Voters would be able to vote from abroad if out of the country, instead of having to go through the laborious process of organising a proxy vote. The security of the system would have to be super-tight. We shall have fewer MPs as video-conferencing and all other means of electronic communication will mean that larger areas can be covered by one person. Our governance will still have the same structure. House of Commons will still meet as now, but House of Lords will be elected with severely limited numbers. Voting in the House of Commons and House of Lords would be electronic but transparent so that MPs voting would be identifiable.

Information about politics

10. Most people still get most of their news from television, although this seems to be changing in favour of online information. Traditional news organisations are also changing. What impact will this have on elections and democracy in general?

News from television will still be the norm for most people as they don't have time or inclination to assimilate more detail than is currently presented. Numbers accessing newspapers online has increased. More recently retired people read newspapers on line and take a greater interest in local, national and international issues. More elderly people read paper newspapers. Freedom of the press is vital to our democracy. National TV should be less biased. Impact of change - very little. Most people are so busy with work and family that they have no time for or interest in the details of running the country - even though every decision made has a bearing on their lives.

11. How can online provision of information about elections be improved, including details of where to vote, how to vote and the results?

Currently all the information is available on County Council websites. Few people access this. A personal e-mail could be sent to every elector but this presupposes that everyone has access to a computer, which is not the case. Such an e-mail would be regarded as 'junk' by many and not read. Many would not want to give their e-mail address to 'the Council' as a lot of other information would then deluge through about council services etc. This will only be useful/workable when we have voting online - at home and in many other publicly accessible places e.g. supermarkets.

Political campaigning

12. Can we expect continuous election campaigning through digital channels – what would citizens feel about that and would it undermine or strengthen representative democracy?

We can expect it. It already happens if you are a member of a political party. It would make little difference to representative democracy, as most peoples views are formed and/or hardened by what they see on TV. If campaigning became too frequent and from all parties, voters would simply switch it all off (block it)