Pulling voters into the web of Westminster

Communication is key in politics, but how well do MPs perform on the internet? Kathryn Corrick casts her vote


Richard Allan

Richard Allan

Sheffield Hallam (Liberal Democrat)

www.richardallan.org.uk

Standing down at this election. Allan was one of the first MPs to have a weblog rather than a traditional website with a few static pages. He makes entries most days, allowing readers to make comments to entries and writes on a wide variety of issues: technology, his speeches, parliament and constituency matters. The blog entries are written in a personal style and make him very accessible to his constituents. The site is simply laid out using some standard software and contains links to blogging MPs, political websites and parliamentary debates.

Tony Blair

Sedgefield (Labour)

www.labour.org.uk/tonyblair

Until this election, the Prime Minister didn't have a website; a political discussion group was using www.tonyblair.com and Michael Howard's team had nabbed www.tonyblairmp.com, www.tonyblairmp.net and www.tonyblairmp.org.uk. But the Labour machine has finally set up a campaign diary. It's not regularly updated and it is hard to believe that the Blair himself makes entries. Readers can send in questions to Blair, and answers are then posted on the site. But don't expect to find any information regarding constituency work.

Lynne Featherstone

Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green (Liberal Democrat)

www.lynnefeatherstone.org

Lynne is a councillor in Haringey (Muswell Hill ward) and a London-wide member of the London Assembly. Her well designed website has news, a regularly updated weblog, lots of campaign fact sheets, a variety of e-mail updates to choose from, a cartoon gallery, an online surgery, an RSS syndication feed, plus masses of information regarding her work and the Liberal Democrats. It is a highly informative website with a personal touch that shows how effective this medium can be. It leads the way for other elected representatives.

Michael Howard

Folkestone & Hythe (Conservative)

www.michaelhowardmp.com

This small website, with a penchant for stating the obvious, is hardly earth-shattering and will never win an award for it's contribution to democracy but, in comparison to the efforts of Tony Blair, the Leader of the Opposition is light years ahead. Only basic information about Howard can be found here, including the gem: "Michael Howard has since been elected as the new Leader of the Conservative Party." The question is: How long do you have to be a Conservative Party leader before you are no longer considered new, or before someone updates your site?

Boris Johnson

Henley (Conservative)

www.boris-johnson.com

Boris was persuaded to set up a weblog last year and, as one of the few Tory MPs to engage with the form, must be admired. The site is regularly updated, contains links to other blogs and allows the public to comment. The blonde bombshell's weblog has a definite style and its fans but I am not one of them. The times I have read entries by Melissa (who assists him) and not Boris are too numerous. One recent post started: "This is blogger Boris calling from the slopes" and went on for 900 words about his skiing holiday. Fanzine stuff.

Charles Kennedy

Liberal Democrat (Ross, Skye & Inverness West)

www.charleskennedy.org.uk

A black and white photograph of a very grumpy-looking Charles Kennedy follows you around this less than inspiring website. The reader can find all the usual speeches, constituency and parliamentary information and links to other Lib Dem sites and MPs. Yet, despite the photo, it is more upbeat, informative and better designed than Michael Howard's efforts. Other than a few rather formal paragraphs from Charles on the home page, the site overall lacks any personal touch. Perhaps Richard Allan could have a few words before he leaves.

Dr Ian Paisley

North Antrim (DUP)

www.ianpaisley.org

Those seeking constituency or parliamentary information via Dr Ian Paisley's website will be sorely disappointed and possibly offended. The site, showing that MPs do have spare time and outside interests, is home to Paisley's European Institute for Protestant Studies. In place of the usual press releases and "About me" statements, you find sections on the errors of Rome, Vatican conspiracies and the ecumenical movement. It is an enlightening insight into the mind of Dr Paisley. Those wishing for more mundane details should go to www.dup.org.uk.

Angus Robertson

Moray (Scottish Nationalist Party)

www.moraymp.org

As the name suggests this site is a lot more than just Angus Robertson's website. Here you can sign up for Angus' newsletter (Moray Matters), find surgery times, make a vote on the online poll and search for speeches. Plus, you can find the weather forecast for Moray, admire it's landscape, get the latest Moray news and find details about council benefits services. The site is one of the few MP websites that includes advertising - when we went, they were for the Aberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board and the Moray-Firth Partnership.

Simon Thomas

Ceredigion (Plaid Cymru)

www.simonthomas.net

Initially, this bi-lingual website, with a Welsh and English home page, seems impressive, easy to navigate, with an attractive design and relevant information. Yet read on and the illusion is shattered. Go to the press releases page and you will find an extensive list but none dated since June 2002. The same goes for his speeches index - the last speech listed was in April 2002. Simon is still an active MP but this site goes to show that if you are going to have a website it is not good enough to have a nice design, you also need to keep it maintained.

Tom Watson

West Bromwich East (Labour)

www.tom-watson.co.uk

Tom was the first blogging Labour MP and, as well as being well read by locals, the site is linked to across the web. He is respected as a blogger in his own right with regular, often amusing, posts (such as: "You know there's an election when ... the catering department declares a cutlery amnesty.") on a wide variety of subjects. He uses his blog to influence serious problems in his constituency and feels it offers him a way of communicating with the world that would otherwise be impossible. Tom received a 'New Statesman' New Media Award last year.

Steve Webb

Northavon (Liberal Democrat)

www.stevewebb.org.uk

www.winwithwebb.co.uk

As Steve Webb kindly points out, he is no longer a MP, as parliament has been dissolved. So, what does this tech-savvy citizen do? Set up another site - winwithwebb.co.uk . Both sites are excellent, jam-packed with information. As well as news and a regular e-mail update, Steve has set up a system where he can e-mail or text-message constituents to ask their opinion. Readers can also have the site presented to them in British Sign Language, thus extending its accessibility.

Ann Widdecombe

Maidstone and The Weald (Conservative)

www.annwiddecombemp.com

The Widdy Web is a simple, fun and light-hearted site. Though it does not contain a blog, it is updated by Ann and contains lots of photographs of her. As well as parliamentary, surgery and constituency info, there is a feedback form, junior section, lots of photos of cats and details of her books. It lacks any information about the Conservative party and there is no mention of the party leader. Are you trying to tell us something, Ann?

Kathryn Corrick is Online Manager for the New Statesman

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Business Development Manager Content/Subscriptions

£50k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Great opportunity to work for a team that ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker