Image: mnd.ctrl @ flickr
In the world of politics, May is looming: these local elections will include a vote on devolution, where the public will decide how they wish to see the future of Wales. Assembly members should be scrambling to connect directly with the Welsh people, to swing the debate wide open, and to incite voters. But where are these politicians?
They’re certainly not here – making there presence known in the blogosphere.
I’ve counted only 6 AMs (out of a total of 60) who blog about their political work and life; Bethan Jenkins, Jon Morgan, Leanne Wood, Peter Black, Nick Bourne, and Leighton Andrews (I’m sure there has to be more – let me know. I haven’t included the likes of Nerys Evans because her blog isn’t directly about her political work.)
The common argument for not having a blog is one of time constraint. But as a politician, if you don’t have time to talk to voters then you shouldn’t be in politics. Other reasons could be technophobia or the belief that it is an inefficient way to reach the public.
Technophobia: Blogging isn’t technical, it’s as simple as sending an email. There are loads of social media classes out there and the Assembly should be supporting its members to improve their IT skills and communication with voters.
Efficient: The Welsh political scene on social media is thriving (For just a tiny handful see: Cardiff Blogger; Welsh political twins; Welsh ramblings; Cambria politico; Peter Cox). If you’re not engaging with their debates, especially if you disagree, it demonstrates that you’re not willing to directly engage with the issues that face Wales and its people.
Scared to be wrong
Yet, these arguments don’t address why AM’s aren’t blogging. There is a simple answer – fear. Blogging about real issues – rather than spouting PR – makes politicians vulnerable to direct debate, direct criticism and real engagement. Just as journalists feared social media, so do politicians.
The trouble is that like journalists, many politicians are not experts. There will always be people that have more expertise on a given topic and they are ready to challenge and debate – engage with them, learn from them, and improve your policies.
As Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC’s technology correspondent, said about his time as a trainee journalist:
“People who complained were ignored and treated like mad men!”
Journalism is moving on from this attitude, it’s time politics did too.
Statistics show that in the UK 46% of the public said they trusted local MPs, compared to 26% when asked about MPs generally. (Committee on Standards in Public Life, survey 2008). This suggests that personal knowledge of a politician makes people respond favourably to them – why aren’t AM’s capitalising on this?
I’m tired of hearing politicians moan about voter apathy and how the media skews the issues. Solve this problem and directly engage with the people.
Come on – you’re politicians, you should be the first to join the debate.