Anorak News | A Tangled Web

A Tangled Web

by | 7th, April 2005

‘UNDER the heading “interests” on the websites of our beloved MPs, we would expect to find one bald word: self.

”Last one to Singapore’s a virgin”

In the battle of the vanities that is the Commons debating chamber, our elected representatives can look too much alike as they bid for our attention.

But in quieter moments, such as when writing their websites, the noble and good have time to take stock of their greater selves.

Sadly, many are not as self-aware as the late Dylan Thomas, who quit a dinner party in the middle of the soup course with the comment: “Somebody’s boring me, and I think it’s me.”

Most of the MPs’ official sites are too dull for words. Our elected representatives seem overly concerned about possible damage to their reputations by having any honest views quoted back at them – until they’re on the way out and can publish their diaries in book form.

But there are a few gems. For every mention of the tremendous works they’ve done for the local youth club and Miss World-like platitudes about a better world for all and warmer sunshine, there is someone like Alan Simpson telling us that he is “good humoured, imaginative and iconoclastic”. And that “Alan tries to put colour and excitement into the politics of the 21st Century”.

How Alan – and feel free to call him Alan; it’s what he calls himself – does this is not revealed, but don’t rule out novelty ties and socks that plays Search For The Hero both backwards and forwards.

Alan has seen the importance of being seen as approachable and anything but a self-serving MP. As Andy Reed says on his website, “Most MPs are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary job.”

While we pause to think of the other MPs – those ordinary people doing an ordinary job – Andy adds: “I have always taken an active interest in political issues, although I don’t necessarily regard myself as a politician.”

Although, as with all MPs, Andy does necessarily regard himself, and when regarding himself, he might well, as with most self-aggrandising MPs, regard himself in the highest possible terms.

Others like to mention the family. Stuart Bell’s website tells the world that his sister Heather worked in a bookmaker’s office in Newcastle. How long she worked there for we don’t get to know, nor if she ever worked with some one called Trudy or what her views are on super casinos. Perhaps Mr Bell could look into filling such glaring gaps.

Andy Reed gives his boy a mention. In the section “How I Spend My Time”, Reed gives us a potted diary which begins: “On Monday morning when the House is sitting I would attend a meeting in the constituency or visit a factory or school after having walked my son to school.”

He’s a nice man is Andy. Give him a mug of tea with his son’s face on it. Although, he could do better and be like sporty Michael Fabricant and jog the lad to class. “I was a 100 and 220 yard sprinter for school and university – before they changed it all to metres,” the interestingly–haired MP tells us with breathless excitement.

But the do-gooders and keep-fitters should wonder if they come across as being as personable and interesting as Ian Taylor MBE MP, who lists his hobbies and interests as “opera, shooting and cigars”.

And then there’s energetic Win Griffith, who has a passion for “cultivating house plants”.

But the most self-conscious site of all must be that of Ann Widdecombe, who brings to the world “The Widdy Web”.

“Here is a picture of my brother and myself on a Bobby Horse,” announces Ann apropos of nothing.

“For an illustrated life story see the Widdy Web Junior,” says the big site. Voters click on the link and learn: “We were in Singapore for three years and I am still in touch with some of the friends I made there.

Can you find Singapore on the map? You will see that it is a long way off and it took us three weeks on a ship to get out there and three weeks back home.”

I checked. She’s right. Singapore is hard to find on a map. You might, like Ann, need a boat to find it. Or a Bobby Horse.

Fatuous it might be, but at least Ann is grabbing the nettle. Sites are costly to maintain for our impoverished MPs, but they are a great way of speaking directly to the masses.

And cheap-to-run blogs are even more accessible.

Backbencher Tom Watson understands the power of blogging, and in 2004 he became the first parliamentarian to publish a web blog, so raising his profile.

And if MPs don’t create their online personas, someone else might. Tim Ireland, an Australian-born programmer produces “Tim Yeo – The web blog; dedicated to the stalking of one of our finest Conservative MPs”.

MPs Boris Johnson, Alan Milburn and Nick Raynsford have also discovered that if MPs don’t take advantage of the internet to get their message across someone else might to do it for them.

And they might not be all that kind…’

Posted: 7th, April 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink