The Independent View: Introducing Hustings.com

A lot has been written about the growing gulf between the voting public and their representatives, voter apathy and low turnout.  Candidates and the media do their best to engage voters but it’s an uphill slog.  At this election in particular a low turnout is a real risk because people have been put off voting at all by a succession of scandals.

A lot has also been written about how the internet may help candidates connect with voters.  Who knows whether this will be seen as the first ‘e-election’.  But it has struck me for a while that candidates’ online campaigns have been like a group of speakers taking their soapboxes and each setting up in different parts of Hyde Park in front of groups of 2 or 3 people, rather than all going to Speakers’ Corner and speaking to the hundreds of people waiting there to listen.

The parties and candidates have their party websites, smallish networks on Facebook and party sites, Twitter to a few followers and maybe have a few videos. All of this is no doubt valuable for motivating committed supporters, but you have to be pretty determined to find all this material online and even when you do none of it really engages an undecided or floating voter who wants to know where to find all the candidates from different parties in one place and hear what each has to say for themselves.  Also it is obviously unfair that parties with the most money can dominate the ‘air war’ with the loudest and flashiest websites and email campaigns.

I wanted to find about the candidates in my constituency but could not find a single place online where I could do so.  So I have set up hustings.com as a free and neutral online platform for all candidates in the general election.  Any candidate can sign up and control a page showing their priorities and experience, show links to their websites etc and embed short campaign videos from youtube or winkball.  The page can be used to run a blog and post podcasts.  The site also collates news about that candidate in the local and national media which helps to give a flavour of the local issues in each constituency. For the undecided voter hustings.com provides a convenient one-stop-shop to browse what’s on offer.  Better to vote for someone than no-one.

The site is not set up to make money from anyone – it doesn’t cost much to run and there is no advertising – and it is completely neutral.  It is simply up to the candidates to explain why someone should vote for them.  Some do this very effectively.  But surprisingly still only a few have a video online which in a couple of minutes contains their key national and local campaign messages.  This should be a minimum for any candidate. It’s amazing what a difference a good little video makes to a candidate’s appeal.

Hustings.com has proved to be popular in my constituency so I have expanded it to cover the 100 or so key marginal and target seats which are likely to decide the outcome of the election.  Please take a look and see what you think.  It currently covers more than 80 Liberal Democrat candidates, eg. http://www.hustings.com/bridget-fox.  Any candidate can register and set up their page.  If a constituency is not yet included just send me an email at [email protected] and I will put it up.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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This entry was posted in General Election, Op-eds and The Independent View.
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4 Comments

  • Mark Haydon 5th Apr '10 - 11:35am

    Im interested in LibDem plans to expand the rail network. How will this improve the public’s ability to switch from car to train for daily journeys to work? I use the train from Luton to London. I still have to drive from my home to the station or its locality. This, for me, is non negotiable. A ten minute car journey is an hours walk (in all weathers) or a 40 minute bus journey but with 2 buses an hour.. I already allow 2 hrs to get to work as it is and I work long hours. I do like to spend some life at home with my family… I have a choice of nearly £6 a day parking on top of my train ticket, unless I park in a side street. I am typical of most regular rail users. Reviving more rail lines and opening up more stations will create the need for MORE parking and put MORE cars on the road. Because no matter how much the railways are extended, people still need to GET to the railway station. Is this really a sensible use of taxpayer’s cash?

  • Oh great, another website. The election hasn’t been called yet and there’s already a proliferation of sites where candidates can create a profile or list their details or answer policy questions that someone set up thinking it would be “a good idea” because “there was nothing like it”.

    I wish this project well but candidates will struggle to keep up with all these sites. And so many different sites will end up being just as bad as all the information being scattered in different places in the first place. At the end of the day people will probably just use the PPC details on local party websites, national party websites and major media operators like Sky, The Guardian and the BBC.

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