Freesteel Blog » Introducing a political widget

Introducing a political widget

Sunday, February 10th, 2008 at 12:30 am Written by:

I am registered to vote in Brighton, Kemptown.
Across all issues, my MP, Desmond Turner, votes in line with my principles 46% of the time.
I support his vote against Trident Replacement on 14 March 2007.
I condemn his vote in favour of a Parliamentary exemption from the Freedom of Information Act on 18 May 2007.

Exhibited on the right: a proposal for a personalized mySociety style widget for tracking your MP in relation to your opinion, featuring relevant links to theyworkforyou.com and publicwhip.org.uk.

All it needs to know is your constituency and your principles on a series of issues. A dynamic interface for selecting these measures can be tried out here. For now, it’s hard-coded for one constituency (Brighton, Kemptown) where the names of the alternative candidates for the next election are known. (For now, this page is being used to illustrate the need pressing need for data to be supplied by parties who do not have any MPs.)

The lower part of the box picks out two votes, one that I agree with, and one that I oppose, that have been cast by my MP in Parliament. It’s important to reach beyond the generalities to individual votes on something specific in order to make clear that words and promises are not enough, because these votes represent the definitive action. An interface for selecting these votes from the hundreds that are cast in any year is yet to be designed, but the system can make a good guess by comparing the opinions of the user and the votes by the MP.

This personalized widget could show up in several different forms. The voting behavior link could be turned off if the user does not want to disclose their views to other people. Or it could be seen. It could invite other users to make their own box. It could communicate via the theyworkforyou.com server to register the voting opinions of everyone in a constituency so that you could find out what other people think and see how out of line the MP’s opinion is in relation to it.

What makes it different from most electoral widgets is that if you notify that you intend to vote for or against a possible candidate, it can explain why. It creates the possibility for unbundled polling data. It gets at the opinions on the issues that an MP is asked to decide, rather than opinions about who is “best for the job”.

A widget of this kind should exist at some point somewhere. There is nothing simpler that could be meaningful. We have the data. We have a prototypical interface. We need to hear from someone who knows about widgets.

Oh, and the percentage weight would be dynamic as more votes are cast during the Parliamentary term, so you can check on it whenever you like, not just at the election. The choice of good and bad votes is another way to find people who should be working together to pressure or reward their MP for their behavior in Parliament.

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