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Guest #2: Politicians Need to Get Social Media

I’m a Member of Parliament, it’s a varied exciting job with a different challenge every day of the week. For me dealing with hundreds of constituents every week trying to help them in any small way I can is one of the most rewarding parts of it.

Since I was elected 9 months ago I’ve become more convinced that social media is an absolutely vital tool to help me effectively represent my constituents (Leicester South by the way if you’re wondering) and help them week in week out.

Jon Ashworth MP
The power of social media was brought home to by this very blog last summer. Diet Justice readers will recall that this blog’s genial host had an unsatisfactory dealing with my office. There is no need to go into the ins and out of that here but Ollie blogged about it, I found out about it via twitter and I quickly got in touch with Ollie via twitter on the Sunday morning when it came to my attention. That’s the beauty of twitter and social media, it allows an MP to quickly engage with a constituent directly and promptly whereas in the past constituents would need to write to their MP or wait for the next surgery appointment.

I often meet constituents who are pleasantly surprised at how quickly I respond to them via twitter. Indeed i’ve made some twitter friends who probably don’t support my Party and probably never will, but I honestly think I’ve gained their respect by responding and engaging with the arguments on the key issues. For example I’ve no idea who @KulganofCrydee is, I’ve no idea if I’ve ever actually met him in person or not but I know he’s not a Labour supporter and yet he’s become one of my best twitter buddies as we joust on various issues regularly. The banter is good natured and cheery even where we profoundly disagree.

Other constituents get in touch asking when my next surgery is or just to let me know they agree with something I’ve said or indeed disagree with something I’ve said. So I use twitter to let people know where i’m going, where my next surgery is and link to the campaigns i’m pushing locally. I use it to comment on national political stories or at other times just make observations about something that has amused me. But most importantly I use it to engage in a conversation with people in a friendly human way. Those who sue twitter to simply broadcast a viewpoint are missing the point of it.

I’ve also used it to help me gain a better understanding of a particular issue. For example, lately I’ve been really concerned about rising levels of youth unemployment which is a real problem in Leicester and nationally. I raised it with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons before Christmas and cheekily asked when was the last time he had a met a young unemployed person. He couldn’t answer, and he then told me the Future Jobs Fund created just ‘phoney’ jobs. I couldn’t believe it and nor could lots of my twitter followers. Before long I was getting inundated on twitter with examples of real jobs found via the future jobs funds which I went back and highlighted. That’s the power of social media.
So increasingly the most effective politicians will be those that take part in a dialogue with people not just put out a press release, make a speech and refuse to engage. That’s what twitter is all about, I think it helps me be a better representative for the people of Leicester South. And at the very least if it wasn’t for social media, I would probably never have got in touch with Ollie to help him out and I probably wouldn’t be writing this now.

Jon Ashworth is the Labour MP for Leicester South, you can follow him on twitter @jonashworth

Previous Birthday Blogger (Vid on Blogging) <- -> Next Birthday Blogger (PFNDF on future of detective work)

Note from Ollie: Thanks, Jon, for being my second birthday blogger. When i was choosing my birthday bloggers i always had Jon in mind...he was there for me during one of the hardest times in my life, and his practical support has been amazing. The past decade has been a difficult time for his party. Despite having Labour values, i never thought i could bring myself to vote for them again. Jon has reminded me what politics is really about, and that local politics is where the good things happen. The Labour Party may have a difficult national position, but i have no doubt who i will be voting for when it comes to the local elections. This reignition of my belief in politics, combined with what i have learned as a blogger, has led me to consider a future in politics. If i ever do enter politics, i will be modelling myself on Jon Ashworth.