Some questions. What are the names of your local councillors? What about your MP? Your MEPs? If you have a complaint about your local hospital closing, which of `them should you contact? Or if you want to mention the great teaching in your local school? Or campaign about dropping Third World debt? Or just moan about the state of your pavements?
If you breezed through that interrogation, chances are that what follows won’t be of much interest to you. For the rest of us though, today sees the test launch of WriteToThem.com, which should make life easier for all of us. If you visit the site, and enter your postcode, you’ll see a list of all your elected representatives, and crucially, what their responsibilities are. You type your full address, and your message, and your chosen representative is then faxed or emailed what you have to say. It’s almost ridiculously simple to use.
Why is this important? Well, apart from being incredibly handy, I think it’s got a part to play in connecting people with those that represent them. We hear a lot about low turnouts at elections, and general apathy when it comes to politics. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that most people simply don’t know who their representatives are, let alone how to contact them.
More than that, it takes politics down to an understandable, local level. You may feel distant – I certainly do – when A.N. Other Minister stands up in the House of Commons and spews forth a string of incomprehensible statements. But our local MP, our local councillor – those are individuals that we, or the people around us, chose to represent us. And it’s only fair that we should have an easy method of getting in touch with them.
But if you’d like to get more involved, you can. WriteToThem.com is only one of five projects that are to be launched by MySociety.org. This ad-hoc group includes some of the people behind the Wibsite front-paged Public Whip, and their projects for the future are even more adventurous than WriteToThem.com. Want a site to make it even simpler to give something away to charity? Or want to make sure that your joint efforts go that little bit further to helping a cause? Well, that’s all on the way. If you want to see it a little bit sooner, join their mailing lists, and if you’re a PHP wizard, they’d love to hear from you.
‘But I’m outside the UK’, you wail. ‘That flashy e-democracy website might be fine for you lot, but…’ Help might be at hand here too. If you’ve got the know-how, it’s actually pretty easy to use what’s been developed for WriteToThem.com, and adapt it for your own country. Here’s how. What are you waiting for?
Right. I’m off to work now, and I’ll expect the mailing list to be bulging by the time I come back…