Right in to the danger zone?

26 Sep

Looking at the Networked Councillor report again today I was wondering why I have no discomfort working with politicians of other parties to develop thinking and practice about digital engagement with communities where the report suggests that Councillors prefer to develop within parties rather than across parties.

The report talks about Next Generation users of digital tools, i.e. those who access the internet and use social tools using mobile devices rather than just through a PC or laptop at home now becoming Councillors. I wonder if Next Generation Councillors have a shifted view of the world which is a stronger culture than either our party culture or our authority’s culture?

Will this lead to a better democracy?

  • Will our values of openness and expectations around transparency and accessibility of information and people shift politics back into a space that is more relevant?
  • Will our ability to collaborate and work more ‘proportionately’ be improved either by our culture? Or because the public are more likely to create NoC councils? Or both together?

I know that where I keep one principle firmly at the top of my mind – does this improve democratic access? I find it simple and painless to work in partnership with other Councillors to deliver that.

For example I had the idea of creating a surgery within a voluntary sector day service for homeless people to improve their access to democratic structures and hopefully, help obviously. A Councillor from my authority but from a different party asked if he could join me. Of course he can! This is about getting the best access to us so that democracy wins.

Online I notice Councillors from all parties are quite willing to share knowledge and experience in using digital tools effectively as a ward Councillor. Because we want to learn from each other, we are enthusiastic about sharing.

Why more transparency and better skills in using all tools to communicate? I guess because we do care that we win the argument, not win by default. And, when people trust politicians and our structures enough to engage we all benefit from a strong mandate and stronger communities.

I welcome views from all but especially other Councillors 🙂


3 Responses to “Right in to the danger zone?”

  1. Christina Summers September 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Thanks for this Emma.

    I assume by “working with politicians of other parties” you also mean “or none”?

    Our model of local government is traditionally structured for political parties and not for independents and I think we need to watch this. As an independent (or, rather, THE current independent i.e. working alone) digital forms of communication are becoming more important for me all the time for all sorts of reasons. It is arguable that independent councillors could grow in number if residents remain unconvinced or even disillusioned by the traditional party politics (which, for us in Brighton & Hove, includes the Greens) and, therefore, the concept of collaboration across the piste ever more likely and necessary (assuming our common ultimate aim is the wellbeing and prosperity of our city/citizens and not our parties or ourselves).

    I think the even bigger question is whether or not digital communications will do it for our residents. I’m not yet convinced. I don’t think it can, or will ever, replace relationship through direct contact for some. How many are the “some” and who are they? Genuine democracy obliges us to find out.

  2. Rowan Draper October 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I think it is like that because we have digital natives, who want to see the expansion of social media and social networking tools to empower us and our residents in the work the Council does, more often than not pitted against status quo naysayers who are not yet on board. I think this is just a reflection on society as a whole: we have innovators, leaders, followers and the last to join in. Working cross party on digital engagement doesn’t engender the same threats one would normally process if party A and party B were to campaign on an issue because the goal is about being a better and more effective Councillor that has people talking to them.

    Will it create more NoC councils? I hope not. I think we risk at our peril the order of local democracy if local government was to be ran solely by independents, coalitions or alliances without a platform of shared objectives. I’m no fan of Labour’s opponents but at least they (generally) bring a platform that ensures stability for that four year term. We can see in Brighton what happens when the whip is absent and personality trumps policy and I hope hate for districts and cities to be so afflicted also.


  1. Right in to the danger zone? « The Democratic Society - September 26, 2013

    […] from Cllr Emma Daniel’s blog. You can also follow Emma on […]

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