MPs follow Barack and look to the internet to reach voters

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And the winner is …. John Hutton.

He may not be the most exciting or high-profile of Cabinet ministers, but the Defence Secretary’s web presence has been judged to be the best designed out of all his Parliamentary colleagues.

According to a survey by the British Computer Society (BCS), only 7% of British adults have looked at their MP’s website and only 46% know the name of their MP.

This contrasts sharply with the level of public interaction generated through social networking sites and the internet in the recent US Presidential race.

Barack Obama raised more than half a billion dollars, much of it small donations solicited online. The President-elect has 3,194,140 supporters on Facebook alone.

The BCS presented the MP website awards at the House of Commons last week.

For a mid-afternoon event, the turnout was impressive – senior Lib Dems Ming Campbell and Michael Moore were there along with Cabinet ministers Alan Johnson and John Hutton, former minister Meg Munn, Plaid MP Adam Price and Tory Nigel Evans.

All were discussing the success of Barack Obama in raising money and connecting with voters through the internet.

The Awards, now in their second year, spotlight MPs who the BCS believe have effectively used web technologies to communicate their political platform and engage with all of their constituents in an exciting and dynamic manner.

This year’s winners were: Design award winner: John Hutton MP – Finalists: Ed Vaizey MP, David Lammy MP

Accessibility award: Alan Johnson MP – Finalists: Alun Michael MP, Tony Cunningham MP

Engagement award winner: Kerry McCarthy MP –  Finalists: David Lammy MP, Andy Reed MP

Judges also selected Derek Wyatt MP as the overall winner; his website was considered to combine the very best of design and the latest in integrated communications technology, presentation and content.

This year’s category winners, selected by an independent panel of political commentators from across the media, were dominated by MPs from the Labour party.

Organisers said they hope to include a category for peers next year, but at present too few members of the Lords have a web presence.

David Clarke, BCS chief executive officer said:

“What the awards have highlighted is that some MPs are beginning to use technology and the internet to engage their constituents in a two-way conversation. However, as the statistics from our survey show, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

“When we look at the number of people who have signed petitions on the Downing Street website, which was shortlisted for the design category, we can see that people want to be involved and will use these kinds of tools.

“Web 2.0 technologies offer MPs a real opportunity to create a personal conversation with their constituents – we only have to look at the recent US Presidential race to see the impact this can have.”

This year’s awards yet again highlighted the importance of website accessibility which is vital in engaging people with disabilities.

Websites were appraised by AbilityNet, the national charity that helps disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology.