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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
'Joke's on you,' says the Westminster blogger

By Mark Davies
BBC News Online political reporter

It has a touch of Ali G, a smattering of 70s slang and a huge chunk of cringe-inducing text-style chatter.

So much so, that Labour MP Tom Watson's ironic appeal to the nation's youth is becoming an unlikely hit in the internet community.

Mr Watson is part of a tiny new movement at Westminster - one of two MPs with weblogs. And his "teens" page is rapidly raising the profile of the Westminster bloggers.

"Cut it with the bling bling and do something for the community, man," the West Bromwich MP appeals. "Drop Tom a line for a quiet rap by the electronic e-mail.

"Tom's well up on the Interwebnet, and he won't harsh your buzz or dis you down the line."

It goes on: "Nobody ever seems to do anything for The Kids!", it does on. "All the decisions are made by suits, man. That's so lame!

"We know you think of yourselves as responsible citizens, but what you wanna do is turn that thought into an action, dudes."

For some e-mailers to the site, the whole thing is "laughable" or "appalling". Others bow down in appreciation - and according to the MP, it's the latter who've got the joke.

Ribbing

"It's definitely irony," he says. "The kids who have read it get the joke immediately, they realise it is ridiculous.

If you got a critical mass of MPs on there you could start having genuine online debates
Tom Watson

"It's the Guardian readers over the age of 30 who get upset about it."

That's a reference to a certain amount of ribbing the MPs has received about the site. Not that he's particularly bothered.

Indeed, he says the idea of the "teens" page was to drive traffic to the site - and it's worked.

Mr Watson, who believes weblogs can play a crucial role in politics, says he's getting around 10,000 hits a week, while if you stick "Labour MP" into the Google search engine, it's him - not Tony Blair - who comes out on top.

The site carries Mr Watson's views on the issues of the day, regular updates on his day at Westminster - from European Standing Committee B to his new role as a parliamentary private secretary - and a competition to design his internet 404 error page.

Critical mass

"There is a serious side," he said. "I update the weblog every day and it's generating a lot of traffic. There is a genuine debate about weblogs and how they can be used in politics.

"I'm getting 300 people visiting it every day and there are really positive benefits.

"I didn't start doing it as an electoral tool, but as a participation tool, but the number of constituents who are visiting is increasing."

He says his fellow Westminster blogger, Lib Dem Richard Allan, had complimented him on the site and now the two cross-reference each other from their blogs.

"If you got a critical mass of MPs on there you could start having genuine online debates," he said.

"And you can get your message across without the risk of misinterpretation from journalists.

Interest

"The great thing about the medium is you can be honest and share your dilemmas with others."

Along with the voxpolitics.com website, Mr Watson has arranged a meeting at Westminster next Monday to examine how weblogs can be used in politics, particularly in the light of their increasing use in the US.

The meeting will look at how politicians and their constituents can use them and how they could affect politics.

Interest in the meeting has already led to Mr Watson having to hire a bigger room in the Commons.

After all, as the MP says on his site, "Politics is cool, m'kay?"

  • How would you sell politics to young people? Send us your 50 word manifesto for youth - in Tom Watson-style or whatever takes your fancy.

    Name
    Your E-mail address
    Country
    Comments

    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

    Here are some of your comments:

    I don't think we need to ask that question - Tom has already answered it himself. I went to his site a while ago for the joke factor but rapidly found myself going back to take a look at what he 'really' had to say. I must say that it is refreshing to see the real views of a politician, unaffected by spin or party whip, whether or not you agree with those views.
    Colin Smith, UK

    Be real!!
    Francis, France

    Bom bom chi budda bom bom chi...repeat that
    I is i is i say i is an mp ok
    bom bom chi budda bom bom chi...repeat that
    u feel and i feel and u feel we've lost our zeal
    but i know and you and we know where we can go
    bom bom chi budda bom bom chi...repeat that
    apathy in ayia napa apathy in ibiza
    in the middle of the commons
    on the floor we should meet there
    bom bom chi budda bom bom chi...repeat that
    Ben Morrow, Cambridge, England

    I reckons we should get down wiff it and be serious. Its your world too, so chip us a shout how you wanna have it played otherwise I'll tax you hard and buy some ICE for my motor wiff the proceeds. Booyakah. Not bad for a 25 year old eh?
    Alex, UK

    Tom Watson has got it dead on. Having a blog means he's not just another face in politics - you can read his thoughts.
    Andy, Scotland, UK

    Make it interesting and relevant. Interest rates and tax cuts mean nothing to a 16 year old you need to talk to them on there level, start with things that affect them childrens rights and then move up through the political spectrum to guage there interest and knowledge and once an interest is formed hopefully it could be maintained. Alternatively BB5 should include 10 politicians!
    Rob, N.Ireland

    Get rid of party politics. Young people are used to voting for individuals - see Big Brother. There's no reason why parliament should not work with people voting and working on issues according to their own beliefs and skills.
    Kay Schlich, UK

    Make voting compulsory, but add a 'none of the above' option
    Carl, Wales

    I would start with proporational representation. So smaller political parties can have a voice, and minority views could be aired. Then we may start seeing politics for the masses and not the warped set of priorities currently seing the light of day in the House of Commons.
    Hadrian, England

    50 words is not enough, this is a complex issue. The key as is known is getting their interest, but cliche'd image boosting won't solve the problem or silly gimmicky ideas. The key is to put in place programmes that show the system is working for them, not against them, as appears to be the general opinion.
    AndyH, UK

    We've already got MPs who talk gibberish, about 600 of them. What we really need is one who talks plain English.
    Graham, UK

    "Yo,yo,yo
    Politics is cool it aint 4 no fool
    You can lie to peeps in tha guise of rule
    You want big beama's a house in tha country
    Yo get all dat whilst yo peeps stay hungry"
    Geeza's and Honey's, want monies 4 old rope? You need politics, peace.
    Shaun Barton, UK

    Get down wiv the Westminster massive
    The main man Tony's
    Got imself in a bind
    He thinks the public is blind
    We aint blind and we ain't deaf
    Perhaps tony should get back to the left
    We can make Tony change his mind
    Kenny, Scotland

    Make politics available in downloadable chunks from the web man, then make it illegal; you'll soon get da yoof interested, init!
    Richard, UK

    The last thing politics needs is young people. Let them go and play for a bit and come back when they are grown up, experienced, wise adults.

    What we need are more middle-aged and old people who know what they are talking about rather than naive and ignorant children.
    Jerry Taylor, UK




  • SEE ALSO:
    Online communities get real
    29 May 03  |  Technology
    Gagging the bloggers
    02 May 03  |  Technology
    Fame or misfortune beckons for weblogs?
    18 Feb 03  |  Science/Nature
    I blog, therefore I am
    04 Feb 02  |  dot life


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