Abstract

Much concern has been voiced about the ability of UK parliamentary institutions and elected representatives to respond to twenty-first century politics. Consequently, there has been an increasing focus around the need to modernise representative politics and re-engage public interest in democratic institutions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the emergence of the internet and email, has been seized upon as one potential solution to public disconnection from parliament. This article examines the extent to which new media can: open up new channels of communication between MPs and the public and whether it could widen/deepen participation in parliamentary politics. To answer such questions, the paper draws on public opinion survey data which assesses: the extent of current usage of parliamentary websites; whether there is a new audience using online communication; the comparative value of different forms of communication with representatives; the demand for online parliamentary consultation and participation; and attitudes towards use of new media in the parliamentary politics. It concludes by suggesting that whilst new media technologies have potential, without wider changes to parliamentary politics, they are just as likely to reinforce existing participation patterns.

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