Election reflection

Just a short piece this week as I had to write something for a print deadline this weekend – and finish that pesky research committee progress report – but I couldn’t let the week pass without just noting a couple of election thoughts.  In doing this I am sure I am joining hundreds of blogs with their twopenneth on #ge2010 – but as there were clearly not enough of those to really turn this into the social media election I feel I should do my bit….

First thing to note – thought social media didn’t have the hyped up effect that lots of people were speculating about I think those of us already using twitter found it a hugely interesting source of extra information and opinion.  I found the leaders debates really improved by the twitterati and I have to say that election night tweeting was outstanding – though as too little sleep / too much booze did change the tone later in the night (can’t decide if this was a good or bad thing – it was certainly social!).  I also found it interesting to start seeing the main stream news more active on twitter.  With most of the big announcements over the weekend, for example news of problems at polling stations, I have picked them up on twitter first (despite flicking between the excellent Guardian live blog and the BBC coverage on the night).  I imagine that newsrooms were focusing on their primary channels rather than new ones for such a big event.  However for the out of hours announcements – and for the rally yesterday – @BBCElection has been right there with proper real time news.

I don’t think any of the parties have made good use of social media on the whole (though I know individual candidates have) and I guess the thing for them to note at this point is that they need to start building their online presence now – especially if we are going to be doing this again really soon.  This doesn’t mean creating mailing lists – its about getting candidates and MPs blogging and using other tools to connect to am electorate that may or may not be pleased to see them.

But the main thing that has really been striking me is the fact that I have never previously really framed my interests in civic engagement and democratic renewal in terms of electoral reform.  I think this is partly because of working at a local level but mainly because FPTP seemed to be a regrettable but fixed part of my terms of reference. How exciting to be wrong.

I really want to see electoral reform happen because I think we deserve a much fairer and more balenced electoral system that has more space for compromise and deliberation and which demands our politicians actually have to work together to find solutions.  I also had pointed out to me this weekend that by moving to a form of PR we are moving closer to European Politics – and this really encapsulated a lot of the concerns I have felt over the way that the leaders debates – though an excellent way to get issues talked about in more depth – moved us towards a much more presidential style of government.  So – I have all fingers and toes crossed that the major output of a hung parliament will be a change in the way we elect the next parliament – and that we don’t have to wait 5 years to see it.

But one thing is sure – new technologies will have to be part of whatever electoral reform comes about because with a deficit the size of ours we have to find cost effective ways to deliver decisions – and perhaps this means that the next election will finally be the internet election we have been promised for some time.

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