Response 937781278

Back to Response listing

About You

1. What is your name?

Name (Required)
Peter Bottomley

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?

It makes it easy to identify and to contact the right MP or their office.

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

(The question could be revised to be clearer?) My initial response is that social media can but not necessarily always do (? does) do almost anything in particular circumstances and with particular people and at particular times - in similar ways to other forms of communication including letters, use of the telephone and broadcast media. Like other methods, there can be waste and frustration (on both sides) and inappropriate use. Differences include potential speed and group participation - and potential distortions.

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?

Pressure? Yes though not from or for all. Opportunity? Yes, too. My experience is that the individual voice with an issue or experience more often leads me to take up a cause or general problem, more often than waiting for a movement or common cause. Illustrative examples include matters of leasehold injustice, the need and opportunity for screening older men for abdominal aortic aneurysms and the addition to cervical cancer vaccinations of protection against genital warts.

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

A mixture and an apparent muddle. I hope it will maintain single member constituencies. That is one of the ways in which every person has an MP to whom they can turn. It will have the settling down and growth of groups such as 38 degrees where a few people, some with common motivstion or background, give the impression of being a popular movement and generate bursts of activity. I anticipate that with care and attention we will maintain investigative journalism and diverse print / brosdcast media so most things known to a few that are new, news, interesting and important can become known to the many. I trust we maintain a system where any party in government can be thrown out at popular will rather than moving to a last-past-the-post habit where the largest minority party in parliament 'buys' the smallest needed for a majority because they are the cheapest - with the risk as in Germany when for most coalitions the Free Democrats were in government with the same main portfolios. I hope we find a better replacement for the unsatisfactory regional closed lists for European elections. Most of all, I trust we do not drift to requiring MPs to do more than listen politely to their party managers. The flexibility of reasonable independence and intiative within a limited number of quite large parties helps democracy have stability with progress. There is danger that mob tendencies made possible by modern communication can be as wrong as older methods. Campaigning is one thing; doing what the public appear to want is not always right? When I was first elected, I was told and I believe the majority thought the death penalty was right, justified and would cut crime.

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?

Non democracy includes some, not all, of the activity of 38 degrees and of others. I get the impression that several campaigners each day think it wise, helpful or productive to ask their contacts to email MPs, often suggesting the MP write a specific message or question to a Minister, and then asking the MP to pass the response back. That can amount to the MP or their office doing four things or more - initial response to constituent, communication with minister, subsequent forwarding of minister's reply, filing each action - for each of a number of constituents. I receive around 600 emails each working day. Amongst them are the quiet individual messages that need particular help. They matter most and there is the growing risk that they will be missed. I believe it is becoming more difficult for an avtive MP to read their their own Inbox. Even a dedicated member of staff is not a completely satisfactory substitute for the person who is elected. One point is this: modern communication includes the inadvertent and little noticed separation of MP from constituent.

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

This can be divided into push and pull: I do not have time to expand or illustrate.

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?

People do not feel the same. Yesterday in Worthing I met or was with several hundred people; most were constituents. Not one mentioned modern digital channels. Quite a number talked about what they had read in newspapers, heard on the radio or viewer on television. This is not to diminish digital - clearly giving opportunities to find and to spread information and to be helpful, especially when used with some imagination.