Came away from last night’s programme about reconnecting people with politics sadly disappointed that as an electorate we are badly failing our MPs. It’s a wonder they can find the will to carry on.
We don’t go to their meetings (possibly because when we do we get harangued about doubting their integrity). We don’t vote. We don’t respond to their blogs – although that side of the experiment seemed to die as soon as it was born and, as any fule kno, these things take time. Not even Chris Brogan could build a vibrant blog community in a few weeks. (And is anyone else as irritated as I am with the number of MPs who just use Twitter as an advertising channel for their activities? Tom Harris, an MP who knows how to do these things, had a great blog post a while back with top tips for political tweeting which started with : 1. Don’t just broadcast – engage. Politicians who use social media to let everyone know what they think but who don’t even respond to others’ views are doing themselves no favours. Quite right too.)
Anyway, back to last night’s MPs. According to Ann Widdecombe we don’t even care enough to tell them what it is we don’t like so they can do something about it. (“They just shrug… I’ve been facing it for years… The shrug“)
Well, Mark Oaten found plenty of things we seem to think and not like about politicians, (“boring, egotistic, in it for what they can get, useless, lying, deceitful, full of waffle…”)perhaps they could start by addressing those, and realising one of the basic rules of communications – it’s not your audience’s fault if your message isn’t getting through.
Admittedly it’s hard to reflect the reality of several weeks’ events in one hour-long programme and perhaps the MPs were just badly served in the edit suite. And I do have sympathy with MPs (some of my best friends…) who on the whole work incredibly hard for little thanks on some intransigent social problems and seem genuinely motivated by a desire to do good. At the moment they do seem pretty unhappy with their lot, as they fight against a corrosively cynical press and a strange uncertainty about their role. In our highly centralised, party-dominated, control-freaky political system what is a backbench MP for? Legislator? Holder of government to account? Lobby fodder? Social worker? Maybe that’s the question they should be trying to answer, before they start worrying about why we aren’t engaging with them.