BCS MP website awards


Last week saw the second set of MP's website awards given out at a special ceremony in parliament

The British Computer Society (BCS) designed the awards to encourage MPs to understand and use website communication tools and encourage public awareness of the work of their parliamentary representative.

A BCS survey reveals only 46% of British adults know the name of their MPs, whereas as little as seven per cent have visited their MPs' website.

"What the awards have highlighted is that some MPs are beginning to use technology and the internet to engage their constituents in two-way conversation," said BCS chief executive officer David Clarke.

"However, as the statistics from our survey show, there's still plenty of room for improvement."

Huge levels of public participation and interaction are now being recorded on popular social networking sites, as well as campaign sites for candidates in the recent US presidential race.

Mr Clarke sites high participation on the Downing Street website as evidence that "people want to be involved and will use these kinds of tools".

Award winners were selected by an independent panel of political commentators from across the media, including The Week and, of course, politics.co.uk. All of this year's winners are members of the Labour party.

This year's winners are as follows:

Derek Wyatt MP is the overall winner.

John Hutton MP is the Design award winner.

Alan Johnson MP is the Accessibility award winner.

Kerry McCarthy MP is the Engagement award winner.

Here is what the successful contestants told politics.co.uk about winning their awards:

Overall BCS winner Derek Wyatt said:

"I learned from the websites of Nicolas Sarkozy, Hilary Clinton, and Barack Obama. I'm not a presidential candidate. I'm just an MP and I need to have a lot more local content. But viewers still come in by the hundreds of thousands. This week we had 14,626 visitors, and they accessed 99,224 pages. In the last ten weeks, our best result has been 15,316 visitors, and the viewing of 166,919 pages."

When asked how to keep a website effective, Mr Wyatt said,: "You have to keep it up to date. We add about three stories a day. Our website is also a very clean site. It has to be kept like a newspaper in that sense. It has to breathe and have lots of energy."

Mr Wyatt's website has a history of success, winning the New Statesmen Media award for the elected representative who best uses new media technology to communicate with the electorate in 2006, as well as the BCS Engagement award last year.

Best Design award winner John Hutton said:

"I was very pleased to be advised that the site had been short listed and delighted at the award of best design. Principal credit for the design must go to a local company in my constituency Furness Internet who worked with my staff to produce something we though would be helpful to constituents. This is a medium that I intend to make much more use of than has been possible to date and I am grateful to BCS for holding the event and for raising the profiles of what I feel is an increasingly important tool for MP's to engage with their constituents through."

Best Accessibility award winner Alan Johnson said:

"I want everyone to be able to use my website so I was delighted to win the award for most accessible site. This is the second year running I have won so the pressure is on to make my site even better for next year!"

Best Engagement award winner Kerry McCarthy said:

"I am very pleased to have won this award. I think it is so important for politicians to use new media to engage with the public, whether their own constituents or not. I've tried to do this through my website on several different levels, from telling people what goes on in parliament, asking their opinions, directing them to where they can get help, or generally just letting them know what I have been doing on their behalf.

"I know other MPs question, in particular, the usefulness of having a blog. They are worries about the danger of their words being distorted, or that they might just be giving political opponents a platform to voice criticism, but I think that on balance it is worthwhile. I think my constituents know me much better because of my website and my blog, and they appreciate being given this information.

"I hope many more MPs see the value of having a decent website and blogging in the future."


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