Over on Twitter Alan in Belfast (one of our best local bloggers) has noted that having reviewed the Democracy Live coverage of last night’s debate of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons it revealed that no local MP was present at the debate.
This Bill will impact the entire country – the entire United Kingdom. It raises important questions relating to personal liberty and many clauses in the bill open the door to what many consider inappropriate meddling by the government in the running of the Internet. Major ISPs and Internet software companies have been mounting a major campaign against the Digital Economy Bill. However you wouldn’t think it judging by the zero interest shown by local MPs.
Compare the performance of local MPs with the Labour MP Tom Watson – who has been using social media to engage with people right across the UK on the DE Bill and who participated fully in the debate and took a stand against the government on many clauses contained in the bill.
Local members of parliament, by comparison, have no view, fail to take a stand, fail to show up or vote.
Alan in Belfast is right to ask why this should be so. Why is it that these people send hordes of volunteers right across Northern Ireland to erect election posters when, once elected, our local MPs show such lack of interest in important pieces of national legislation – upon which we expect them to take a stand? Indeed, right now, as I type, Jeffrey Donaldson’s helpers are placing one of his vast colour posters on a lamp-post right opposite my house. And yet Jeffrey couldn’t be bothered to make his opinion known, last night, on this important piece of legislation? Why?
Perhaps the reason why is that he doesn’t actually have an opinion. Perhaps he doesn’t see this as important. Perhaps he assumes that no-one is interested, that no-one expects him to take a stand, that no-one expects him to turn up and vote on this issue. And perhaps he knows that no-one really expects him to know much about the Internet, or the creative industries.
Over the next few months I’d like you to ask as many candidates as possible what they care about at a national level. Oh and ask them how often they will be in parliament and what national issues are of particular concern to them. If they look at you blankly then the likelihood is that they might just be like our current MPs – most of whom don’t attend, don’t vote and couldn’t care less.