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Who doesn’t use email in this day and age? Julian Lewis MP, that’s who. According to charity-run website WriteToThem, the Tory New Forest East MP communicates via fax, letters or phone calls. He doesn’t use a Twitter account or harness the power of the internet in any way, leaving constituents hanging if they want to fire a quick question to him.
Lewis is clearly missing a trick. Let’s face facts: things are only going one way. If people can’t see you on the internet, they can’t see you at all.
Some 53% of millennials would rather lose their sense of smell than technology. More people worldwide own a phone than a toothbrush. In the last election, an ICM survey showed that 65% of those aged 18-22 didn’t even know the name of their local MP. This could be solved so easily if more politicians put themselves in our sight line. And where are we looking? Social media.
Most politicians do have a Twitter account, but for many it is underused and impersonal. And that doesn’t wash. We only have to look to the events of the last general election to prove this point. Ed Miliband was often thought of as media unfriendly. He was awkward on TV and clearly not as comfortable with public speaking as David Cameron. But the caterpillar became a butterfly when he stepped down as Labour leader following the election and started running his own social media. He went from afamously bad bacon sandwich eater, to a man with obvious wit and intelligence an people instantly warmed to him.
That movement didn’t win him the election, but it changed his image in a massive way for a lot of people. And while once it might have been deemed an angsty teenage issue to worry about how many followers on Twitter you had, now it is a recognised measure of influence.
Sealed away in the House of Commons, often busy in their constituency … there is one easy way for politicians to pull down the curtain between themselves and the public. How does Lewis plan to win trust, support and in the future, votes, if he doesn’t even have a working email address to sign up to a social media account?
And he isn’t the only one who is guilty. Young people don’t want perfect, preened politicians. They want to see a human side, someone they can interact with and relate to. Activism on Twitter and Facebook can create shockwaves which extend far further than the internet. We only have to look at the #ImInWorkJeremymovement on Twitter to justify that. Started by angry doctors and nurses who posted selfies to prove they worked weekends, it inspired NHS staff to open up about how they truly feel about the health secretary.
Pair that with the junior doctors’ strike, and suddenly you have a petition signed by 128,000 supporters asking for his resignation. Politicians having a Twitter account or Lewis finally opening up to use email might seem like drops in the ocean, but they can eventually form a tidal wave. And a wave is definitely what is needed if anyone wants to engage the millions of young voters who will be preparing to cast their ballot at the next election. Although it isn’t for four years, politicians especially have a lot of catching up to do.
Who knows. By 2020, talking on the phone might be obsolete. And if politicians don’t move with the times, they will be too.
1 What is Julian Lewis’ job? ____________________
2 Which word in paragraph 3 names people who were born in the 21st century? ____________________
3 What helped Ed Miliband improve his public image? ____________________
4 Is it important for politicians to have a lot of followers on Twitter? ____________________
5 What kind of politicians do young people like? ____________________
6 Which word in paragraph 7 means the same as campaign? ____________________
7 Whose resignation was supported on social media? ____________________
8 When will the next election be held in Great Britain? ____________________
(Adapted from The Guardian, 3 March 2016)