Today, initiatives like More United, who champion candidates with high levels of integrity, standing for unity and inclusion, rejecting hatred and division, stand high above petty politicking. They inspire me, and I hope that they inspire you, to do more to support building a culture that you want to live in. Like most people, I took a break yesterday from engaging in politics. But with an election four days away its time to get back in the game and do my bit for that vision of a better world. So today we are opening up our beta facebook bot, to help find information about your constituency, candidates and your local EU referendum result.
In the same vein as a lot of the tactical voting websites that have appeared recently, it’s coming too late to help your average overseas voter. But we’re in this for the long game, to take part in creating a digital democracy, not just for the election.
Neither facebook nor twitter are conducive to proper conversation...
...said one of my candidates! No, no no! Social media is a great way to engage with people, let’s call them constituents, and start conversations. Take my twitter conversation with Liberal Democrat candidate for Horsham Morwen Millson. Through that I felt more connected and engaged with the person who has the potential to represent me for the next five years. And thanks to tweets with Something New candidate James Smith I have access to my local election leaflets online via electionleaflets.org.
What does being better connected mean anyway?
In 2015 I had zero contact with my candidates, I roughly knew their names, I voted by party. I didn’t know what the local issues were, and I voted solely on the fact that I had a right to vote so I should.
In 2017 I got in touch with all of them (except UKIP which was a deliberate choice) - and here is how I fared: Out of 6 candidates, 1 email bounced, 1 email replied to (and 1 promise of an email that has yet to appear), 3 twitter exchanges and 1 ‘I’m not even going to bother as I’m as I’m just a shadow candidate’ failure to reply.
I even wrote an open letter to my candidates. I’d call this being better connected.
Dreaming of digital democracy
Political preferences aside, I want to live in a world where I can engage in democracy in more than one way. Digital means give me plenty. The concept of a digital democracy is evolving but I like to think that what are doing here at citizns.eu falls within the scope. It’s not enough that governments, political parties and newspapers provide candidate and election data. Independent initiatives like More United who champion high integrity candidates should continue to add to the mix. There should not be one place where you can go to engage in democracy, there should be many. And maybe our facebook bot will be one of them ...
This is just the beginning for me
I set up citizns.eu to help UK citizens living overseas connect with their elected representative. Then an election was called and we abruptly pivoted to focus on connecting overseas voters with their candidates.
In the next few weeks we’ll be pivoting back to our original idea. Our website will be updated, our facebook bot with offer you different options for what information it can find out for you. And we’ll be launching a series of articles by UK citizens living overseas who want to tell their story. To name but a few.
For now why not try out the bot. All you need is a facebook account and a UK postcode that you want to find information about. If you don't have a UK postcode, use the postcode for the heart of our democracy, the Houses of Parliament, SW1A 0AA.
Also published on Medium.