Tory launches 'MPTV' so voters can watch him work

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Indy Politics

Forget party leaflets and political mailshots. One Conservative MP has launched his own internet television service for local voters, paid for by public funds.

Constituents in the seaside towns of Clacton-on-sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Harwich and Walton-on-the-Naze, can post videos and watch the exploits of their new MP Douglas Carswell on the internet.

The site,, has been designed to bypass local newspapers and television stations and replace the more usual leaflets posted to voters.

The MPTV initiative, in the ultra-marginal seat of Harwich which was taken by the Tories at the last election with a majority of just 920, is an unusual entry into the political scene.

It eschews the conventional look of politics on the internet, with video clips and a picture of a camera rather than the more familiar images of Westminster. But it does make it clear that the MP runs the site and monitors contributions.

In line with parliamentary rules, there are no mentions of the Conservatives. One of the test videos on the site yesterday was footage of John Prescott's famous punch during the 2001 general election campaign and it features a video about so-called "garden-grabbing" planning rules.

The site is paid for by public funds from Mr Carswell's parliamentary allowances which are used to pay for postage and communications with constituents.

But the MP insisted yesterday that he had cleared the venture with parliamentary authorities and was communicating with voters who would not be reached by traditional websites or annual reports routinely posted to constituents by MPs across the country.

Earlier this week, MPs voted to approve a new £10,000-a-year communications allowance for MPs to "improve engagement with the public" despite warnings that some members would use mailshots to improve their standing with voters.

Last week, figures showed that MPs claimed £86.7m last year in expenses and allowances.

Mr Carswell was a middle-ranking spender in last week's list of MPs allowances. His new website comes as parties increasingly take to the internet to woo floating voters.

The Conservative leader David Cameron made his own foray into cyberspace by posting video messages on his own "Webcameron" site, showing him talking about his philosophy while washing up in his Oxfordshire family kitchen.

Then the Labour MP Sion Simon faced fury after posting a spoof Cameron message on a video site.

Mr Carswell's site allows constituents to post their own video clips and comments, as well as watch his own contributions.

Yesterday, Mr Carswell, who created his site before his party leader started his "webcameron" video blog, said his foray into cyberspace was designed to connect with people turned off conventional politics. The MP, who has published a pamphlet calling for greater direct local democracy, said: "Every MP gets an allowance that allows them to communicate with voters. Some people use that to produce an annual report or a quarterly report that is posted to constituents. This is much cheaper."