Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

MPs to be watched on local issues

Map of Democracy Club meetings, Democracy Club
Meetings are being planned all over the UK.

Web-based democracy activists have kicked off the first round of a project to see if MPs keep their promises.

Meetings are being arranged up and down the country to draw up lists of issues important to locals.

Once compiled, prospective MPs will be quizzed on their views about the issues and the responses recorded.

After the election, the voting behaviour of MPs will be monitored to see if the policies they back or vote against match their words.

Better democracy

The meetings are being organised by volunteers involved with the Democracy Club, a non-partisan online group that aims to ensure people are better informed about their political representatives.

Seb Bacon, the co-ordinator of Democracy Club, said it was set up to become the place people could turn to for neutral information about MPs.

"It gives people an insight into the people they are voting for rather than them just getting information from the party machine," he said.

Volunteers who sign up to help get given weekly tasks, said Mr Bacon.

"It's about giving people small bite-sized tasks to further transparency and improve democracy," he said. "It's about doing something small to achieve that bigger goal."

Democracy Club now has about 3000 volunteers spread across 98% of the UK's constituencies. The task they have been given this week involves setting up meetings to brainstorm a list of important local issues.

Mr Bacon said he only expected a few meetings to be held but, so far, about 40 are being arranged. An indicator, said Mr Bacon, of the desire among the electorate in the wake of the expenses scandal to ensure politics becomes more transparent.

"The next phase is going to be turning those local issues into questions we can put to candidates," he said.

"The questions must be answerable yes or no so at a glance they can compare what the candidates are saying," said Mr Bacon.

"Exactly how it is going to be useful, we'll have to see," he added.

Democracy Club has grown out of volunteers involved with the TheyWorkForYou website which monitors the activities and voting records of MPs. Information gathered by Democracy Club will appear on the TheyWorkForYou site.

Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety which created TheyWorkForYou, said gathering the information would act as an incentive for MPs.

"If you have an opaque regime where people can get away with things they will try to get away with them," he said.

"This will give them the incentive to do right in the first place," he said.

In October 2009, Mr Steinberg started advising the Conservative Party on ways to make government more open and efficient. At the time, Mr Steinberg said he would be doing the advising and MySociety would remain "strictly non-partisan".

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