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Elites and E-democracy: MPs, Representation and ICTs. Stephen Ward Oxford Internet Institute University of Oxford stephen.ward@oii.ox.ac.uk. Research focus. Anglo-Australian comparison (Westminster, Canberra, Scotland, Wales, Victoria and Queensland)

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Elites and E-democracy: MPs, Representation and ICTs

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Elites and e democracy mps representation and icts

Elites and E-democracy:MPs, Representation and ICTs

Stephen Ward

Oxford Internet Institute

University of Oxford


Research focus


  • Anglo-Australian comparison (Westminster, Canberra, Scotland, Wales, Victoria and Queensland)

  • How far ICTs are facilitating changes in role of MPs (constituency, party and legislative)

  • Examining MPs’ perceptions and uses of ICTs for enhancing communication, representation & democracy

  • Analysing factors that shape patterns of parliamentary/MPs Internet usage

Mps attitudes towards icts

MPs’ attitudes towards ICTs

  • Administrative modernisers (efficiency gains)

    “Modernise parliament and we could do more. If we had screens in the chamber we could actually get on with some work... We get text messages in the chamber. We’re probably not supposed to but the speaker’s not stopped it. That’s how antiquated we are.”

  • Political marketeers (branding and votes)

    “We’re really looking at brand imaging. We want to give a feel of who he is and what he’s been doing…”

  • Innovators (dialogue and networking)

    The great thing about the blog is it’s kind of liberating in that when you visit someone’s blog you’re in their home and you’ll be polite and you engage and follow the usual niceties…In terms of what people can say they can criticise me personally. They usually joke at my physical size. They attacked the government; don’t mind that. If they overstep the mark and start swearing and using extreme language they’re out. To make a blog work you have got to let go of the vehicle. You have got to except that people are going to come back at you with different views and that it’s going to be up there on your site and sometimes you will get a dozen people disagreeing with you, that’s just the way it is. I don’t really mind

Mps attitudes cont

MPs’ attitudes (cont)

  • Sceptics (ICTs exacerbate our problems)

    “Blogs, interactive democracy and the like, well we just haven’t got the time. Mps have bursts of enthusiasm then reality bites and it gathers dust. A couple of weeks enthusiasm and then nothing…. There has to be a hard evaluation of the benefits. My suspicion is the returns are marginal, returns are minimal. In fact, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.”

  • Fatalists (there’s nothing we can do)

    “We’re fucked… parties are finished… no one cares about this place [westminster]”

    “There’ll always be a lumpen proletariat who think that we’re all eating and drinking at the public’s expense and that we’re only in it for ourselves but then that’s democracy”.

Representatives online

Representatives Online

  • Mainly information-based broadcast model

  • Minimal interactivity but some innovation (blogs, e-consultation, video diaries)

  • Web-in-a-box & template politics nationalising the local?

  • Online dissent rare – mostly on message

Barriers to online activity

Barriers to online activity

  • Fragmentation - lack of corporate culture (parliamentary institutions)

  • Culture of politicians

  • Lack of incentives

Drivers to online activity

Drivers to online activity

  • Personal factors: IT skills and interests, peer pressure

  • Party factors: a minor party media?

  • Constituency factors: electoral marginality and internet connectivity

  • Institutional factors: facilities and resources? new identities

Challenges difficult democracy

Challenges: Difficult Democracy?

  • Disaggregation and acceleration

  • Amplification of the voices of the already engaged

  • Fragmentation

  • Raised expectations

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