A few days ago I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament (a present from my wife – I didn’t realise that you couldn’t just walk in off the street – you need to approach your MP to sponsor you!). One point that particularly interested me was when our tour guide mentioned several ways in which the activity of parliament has become more transparent through the use of technology, including live televised debates, streamed webcasts, and online public voting records etc.
Here in the UK, the TheyWorkForYou website has been massively influential in publishing a wide range of easily-accessible statistics on the parliamentary activities of all UK MPs, Lords, and Northern Ireland MLAs. You can browse the site to see which debates a member of parliament has turned up to, how they voted, the transcript of any speeches they made, and much more.
Here’s an extract of the voting record for my local MP, Simon Wright, for example:
As a keen supporter of active democracy, I’m all for holding MPs accountable (and, if you’re reading this in the UK, I strongly recommend you visit www.theyworkforyou.com and check up on whether your MP is really representing your views). However, even I was a little surprised to see some of the detailed monitoring that now appears to be in place: not satisfied with merely overseeing their political activities, it appears that MPs Tessa Jowell, James Gray, Simon Hughes, and Andrew Miller have been fitted with GPS-tracking devices so you can actually monitor their exact movements. At least, that’s what Google Maps seems to suggest when you zoom in on the Palace of Westminster ;)
I suggest Google might want to do a little cleansing of their POI data there… someone’s even submitted a “review” for Tessa Jowell!