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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 09:57 GMT
Silver surfers do well at Westminster
Iain Duncan Smith, leader of the Conservative party
Duncan Smith performs badly in responding to e-mails
Older politicians are far more web-savvy than their younger counterparts, a survey has found.

Research by technology firm Parity found that more than three-quarters of UK MPs over 65 have their own website compared to just half in the 20-35 age bracket.

Overall two-thirds of MPs now have their own website with the Liberal Democrats coming out as the most wired party.

The internet is increasingly being recognised in Westminster as a crucial tool to re-engage voters with the political process.

Engaging youngsters

Geography also seems to play a part, with 70% of MPs with constituencies in England having a website compared to a third of Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament.

Any MPs that doesn't have a website by the next election will be looked at scornfully

Andrew Miller, MP
It is very important for MPs to become switched on to the web, said Parity's Managing Director Rick Bacon.

"The web is a primary source of information for many people across the UK. Those MPs who still don't have a website could be missing a trick," he said.

"The apathy of the younger generations towards politics has never been more apparent," he explained.

"Politicians, particularly the older generation, are recognising that to target these age groups, they must lead by example and connect with younger people in the way they prefer," he added.

MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston Andrew Miller has had a website for three years.

He is confident that a presence on the net has improved his relationship with younger constituents.

"Any MPs that doesn't have a website by the next election will be looked at scornfully," he said.

The Labour Party is providing its MPs with an off-the-shelf design kit for websites, aimed at making the initial setting up of a site as easy as possible.

Snail mail

The quality of MPs websites varies massively. Some update regularly and provide plenty of information, while others appear out of date.

WHO HAS A WEBSITE?
50% of 20-34 year-old MPs
80% of Liberal Democrats
70% of Labour MPs
61% of Conservative MPs
Another Parity survey conducted in the summer found that MPs are still half-hearted about their use of e-mail, with less than a quarter corresponding with their constituents in this way.

Despite the fact that one in four MPs received more than 25 e-mails a week, most still prefer to respond by post.

Even for MPs that have caught the tailcoats of the digital revolution there is a mixed attitude to responding to e-mails quickly.

A survey compiled by FaxYourMP.com found that around 40% of MPs did not respond to e-mails and faxes within two weeks.

Dated web

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith failed to answer any of his constituent's e-mails or faxes within 14 days.

But fellow Conservative MP for Basingstoke Andrew Hunter scored a magnificent 100% response rate within that period.

Some MPs, including Henley MP Boris Johnson, said they did not want to be contacted by e-mail at all.

Last week the government came in for more criticism over its relationship with the internet when a group of MPs found many government websites were inaccurate and out-of-date.

See also:

13 Dec 02 | Politics
28 Nov 02 | Europe
07 Oct 02 | dot life
20 Nov 02 | Technology
06 Nov 02 | Technology
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