Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tweet your MEP : A poor man's They Work for You

A new little widgetty thing has just been launched, Tweet Your MEP. Initially it is promising. The premise that the contacts of all the tweeting MEPs are available and so on is good.
However there are some problems with it of which one is resolvable and the other is more problematic. Currently you can search for your MEP on the site by either nationality or by Interest area.

But what about by political Group, which I would have thought vital?

It is almost as if you have the European Parliament on view, but not politics - an idealised world indeed. One where there is no disagreement, for example there seems to be no space for Euroscepticism, despite the rising tide of that opinion across the continent.

Also looking at the interest areas they seem to be defined interestingly. For example, according to the site Nick Griffin isn't interested in immigration, which surprised me.

In trhe case of countries with more than one constuituency, such as the UK the MEPs should be divided into regions.

These however are problems that can be addressed by greater knowledge and some technical tweeks.
The big problem is more difficult and that is who will use it. EU Weekly in its instant review is optimistic,
It is true that TyMEP will be mostly used by Euro-bloggers to interact with MEPs
and ask them questions, also by specialized journalist that will find in it a new source of informations (and with a bit of luck by general journalists too) ; but the ultimate test will be the citizen.
To conclude, TyMEP will be a great, practical tool, useful to the members of the euro-webo-sphere; and hopefully, will extend this bubble in two differents ways: for the citizen, and for the MEPs, who are invited to be more active in the web world.
I doubt it, from the start the main users are, and will continue to be lobbyists. As the NGOs and the corporates get a hang of the idea, then the inboxes of twittering Euro politicians will be inundated by demands that they recognise the Falun Gong and so on. The general public, and even the Euro bloogosphere and journalists will be squeezed out.

Whilst spammers can be blocked by the MEPs they will not know they are being spammed at least for a while. The avalanche of lobbying will, I fear, effectively drive those MEPs who tweet off the format. At very best they will delegate the handling of their twitter feeds to staff (sucha s is altready done in the case of Jerzy Buzek).

In the case of They work for you the communication function works well as it is not so public, and is by email to a work email address. As of yet they haven't properly included MEPs in their universe, and I hope they do.


Laura said...

Hi, To respond to your post on Tweet your MEP, we hope to include the parties in the next version of the website. To start with we wanted to keep the concept simple by focusing on connecting citizens to their MEPS by country and by theme. Of course the political angle would be important also but the names of EU parties aren't always well known to the public. But it something we will include in a later version. There is however plenty of space for disagreement. All questions / comments are welcome within the bounds of what is legally permitted. No politician or political group has been excluded.

Concerning the themes, we have indexed MEPs to themes according to the Committees they sit on in Parliament as these are the areas where they will be doing the most work and will be able to very concretely influence legislation. it may happen as you suggest that an MEP has an interest for a policy outside of his committe work. Given the number of MEPs concerned by this project, it would difficult to cater for all the policy interests of every MEP - the cross referencing with the committees was a logically way of indicating which MEPs are competent to reply to questions on a given policy area.

Finally, we believe that the public nature of the communication between MEPs and citizens is one of the assets of this website and will hopefully help to spark off Europeanwide debates and allow people to see at a glance the subjects that are of concern to their fellow European citizens.


Laura, coordinator of the TYMEP project for

Gawain Towler said...


Thanks for that, maybe by having a Parliamentary Group fubnction rather than national political parties will make it a bit easier (whilst I recognise that the ECR and the EFD are hardly household names at their own breakfast tables).
I also take you point about interests, though I suspect as the project matures this is the sort of thing that you will be able to finesse as you gain greater knowledge and experience.

However I still stand by the problem that you will be more likely to drive active participation of MEPs away from Twitter than encourage them. Thee pronoucements will become more corporate and less personal. But that is a price that you may well feel is worth it.