Archive | February, 2014

Shout! Let it all out – Getting better democracy

24 Feb

Just a quick post on the kind of interactions that campaigning politicians and activists can expect on social media inspired by a tweet this afternoon by Alex Andreou @sturdyalex – his blog is at – here is his excellent (left-wing focus ) list which had me crying with laughter because it IS true!

By @sturdyalex

Shout out and get a shout back

Political debates on social media tend to be shouty and can descend fast; a bit like a drunk leaving a pub slurring “…and another thing” as they stumble out. (Especially during a campaign period as I learned hence my post on dealing with negative interactions Sticks and Stones – people generally react to the context they see you in but you do have control over your tone and your interactions.)

Also, you can set context by listening and joining other discussions rather than just broadcasting your views. Broadcasting rather than interacting definitely increases the broadcasting shouty replies. However, in fact, DEBATE is fine and disagreement is inevitable and I think we have to relax and accept that. Even, as Alex has, have a sense of humour about it.

Is debate or party politics the cause of our democratic deficit?

But, shouty debate between politicians is perceived to be a problem and is often cited a reason why people aren’t voting or engaging in formal democratic structures. I, often, see pleas for a more consensus based approach and actually the reality is that consensus is an important part of democracy but we can’t lose debate and disagreement because actually winning elections should be about winning the argument. The challenge for online politicians is choosing the right argument to engage in and win. I believe that actually the main democratic issue was the shift towards seeing local authorities and other bodies like corporations and building a consumer – provider relationship. If we can shift this relationship, and move from transactions to relationships this is a bigger key to unlocking better democratic engagement than stopping the shouty debates on or offline!

Any more lists?

Plea – I would love to see a list that Conservative councillors and activists made to go with this one and if I find one I will amend this post to incorporate. You can submit in the comments or via twitter if you like.


Police & Crime Scrutiny – the right to remain silent?

24 Feb

BBC research published 21 February 2014 was pretty damning on the performance of the accountability and scrutiny frameworks around Police and Crime Commissioners in particular the effectiveness of the Police and Crime Panels. With notable exceptions of the Sussex and Surrey PCCs mentioned and quoted who webcast and engage using technology to help involve the public more in formal and informal scrutiny many are performing poorly. With 8 of 37 Police and Crime Panels not even accepting public questions there are some serious questions to be asked.

The recent report from CfPS Police and Crime Panels- The First Year cites some really interesting challenges for the scrutineers and PCCs. The report suggests that whilst they have been hampered by timings of budget processes, officer support, unclear guidance around role and teething pain generally they should be ready to make a difference now. Aside from tackling some of these issues the report focuses on three areas and ideas for improvement that I am interested in and all could be seen independently or as inter-related areas:

Public involvement

  • Use issues raised at neighbourhood levels as information to drive scrutiny projects
  • Joint engagement projects between the police, PCC and Police and Crime Panel
  • Digital presence  including webcasting would help more people to get involved
  • Proactive scrutiny which seeks active public involvement should be timetabled


Digital tools

The report mentions the lack of digital presence for most PCPs as a key concern, especially given the very large geographical areas they cover.

  • Use webcasting
  • Use social media
  • Allow filming, photos and social reporting during public events and meetings especially if PCPs are not providing this themselves

“The majority of meetings are not webcast. Given that many Panels cover wide geographical areas, the presumption in favour of webcasting might be seen as higher than with standard council meetings…We are aware of instances where members of the public have sought to record and broadcast footage of the Panel in session, something that ought to be encouraged in the absence of official facilities to do this.”


  • PCCs should publish a forward plan of decisions
  • PCCs should public data on operational performance as this is vital context to show decision making in and to help the public and PCPs to understand the outcome of a decision making process
  • OPCCs should operate under the principle that you should publish information by default rather than by exception or as prescribed

Why is it important that the Police and Crime Panels have a higher profile and engage directly with the public? Well the report says this:

“It is vital that Panels are visible to those in the local community. The Panel must have a relatively high profile in order to provide local people with the information they will need in order to make an informed choice at the ballot box – quite apart from the role in assuring the public that the PCC is being effectively held to account between elections”