These are the slides I talked to this afternoon.
The point that I was trying to convey to what was an audience of local government types was that there are some inbuilt barriers why there aren’t more councillors using this technology, but there are still some very good reasons why they ought to try to overcome them.
For me one of the reasons I started blogging was to extend the conversation I was having about my role as a councillor. I recognised that there was a small group of people who I met (quite) regularly who understood the sorts of things I was doing, either as their ward representative or as the cabinet member for the environment; but the vast majority of people had almost no idea of what I was up to, except that occasionally they’d see me on their doorstep asking for their vote for myself or another Labour politician.
I remember being very nervous about starting the blog. This is what I said about it when reflecting on my first few weeks in the ‘sphere:
I’ve done my share of public meetings, and am used to speaking at Council meetings and the level of nerves I’ve had about this enterprise is just as much as when doing any of those things. I’m not trying to be controversial, or create “heated debate” at this stage, but being a politician I’m aware that we don’t have the highest standing in society, and that might be reflected in how people respond.
I didn’t tell anyone inside the council that I’d taken the plunge for a few weeks, figuring that should I turn out to be a disaster I’d be able to walk away whistling and no one would ever need know (more fool me). When I did get round to telling Steve and my fellow ward councillors they were okay about it, trusting my judgment wouldn’t lead me to make too much of a fool of myself, and pleased that I was going to focus on my political life.
Since then my view that blogging remains a useful tool for councillors has been confirmed, but I’m not blind to the reasons why there aren’t lots more of you out there.
- Lots of councillors are in an age bracket that doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with the internet;
- The internet isn’t a universal form of communication;
- If you look at some of the bigger political blogs (and their comment sections in particular) the level of name calling and point scoring doesn’t uplift the soul;
- It takes effort and in a crowded day this isn’t going to be a high priority; and
- One slip and you’re going to be in the local paper for the wrong reason.
But, that said I still think there’s more to be gained from engaging with constituents online, be that through having your own blog, on social networking sites, or on other people’s blogs or forums and preferably all of these.