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Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 09:47 UK

How interactive are our MPs?

by Sarah Walton
Politics Show, North East & Cumbria

Ronnie Campbell being  taught to use Facebook

Video - Interactive MPs

As we count down to the general election next year, campaign flyers on the doormat will become commonplace.

But as more and more of us have access to broadband wireless internet and mobile phones, many MPs are using increasingly high tech ways to reach voters.

But not in the North East and Cumbria.

Here, just a handful of MPs have signed up to websites like Facebook and Twitter and some do not even have a website.


One of the fastest-growing online social networking sites is Twitter.

It is a free website, where you can sign up and post short messages about what you're doing or thinking.

You can also follow other people on the site and read their messages, which you can have sent to your mobile phone as text messages.

During the recent Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth, the organisers sent out regular messages telling people where and when different events were to be taking place.

The Lib Dem MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Phil Willis is a regular 'Twitterer' and sent messages from the conference by using his mobile phone.

But apart from him, the only other MP from our region who use the site is South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

A mobile phone
Facebook has become popular with younger people

However, the growing popularity of the site is evident in the number of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates who use the site.

UKIP's candidate for Stockton North, Labour candidates standing in Berwick, Skipton and Ripon, Easington and Newcastle East and the Conservative candidates for Durham, North Durham and Berwick have all started to raise their profiles through Twitter.

But one of the most popular online social networking sites is Facebook.

Members of Facebook get a webpage where you can share information about yourself, photographs and, as with Twitter, tell people what you're doing at any given moment.

Younger people

But four of our MPs have been using the site, even though it is particularly popular with younger people. They are Ashok Kumar, Roberta Blackman-Woods, John Cummings and David Miliband.

Ashok Kumar MP, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, City of Durham
John Cummings MP, Easington
David Miliband MP, South Shields

The UK Youth Parliament uses it regularly to keep in touch with members.

The Member of the Youth Parliament for Northumberland, sixteen year old Jack, believes new media is becoming an increasingly important way of reaching young voters.

"The modern electorate is becoming out of touch with Members of Parliament." he said.

"One way of re-engaging people is to use the technology the electorate use, which would increase voter turn out."

The likes of me have got to be dragged into the modern system
Ronnie Campbell MP
Labour, Blyth Valley

But his message is yet to get through to many politicians.

One of the region's MPs does not even have a website - Ronnie Campbell, who has been MP for Blyth Valley for 22 years.

He said: "The likes of me have got to be dragged into the modern system. I've yet to be convinced. All I hear about computers is how they stop working or go slowly. The quill pen never stops working."

So Mr Campbell agreed to take part in an experiment for the Politics Show.

He met members of the Youth Parliament this week, to discuss new media and set up his very own social networking page.


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