To underline the integral role that IT now plays in parliamentary communications, the British Computer Society (BCS) has announced the winners of its first MP Website Awards.
The new BCS MP Website Awards has sought to spotlight and applaud MPs who the Society believes have best used their websites to passionately communicate their political platform.
Judging criteria also marked MPs on sites that effectively engage with their constituents and present the world of politics, particularly to young people, in an exciting and dynamic manner.
Websites were judged and are awarded today according to three categories:
There is also an award for the MP whose website was selected as overall winner and considered to be an outstanding example of the very best incorporation of all three qualities. In addition three MPs were also commended for exemplary websites that demonstrated passion, commitment and excitement.
Judging of all MP websites was undertaken by BCS President Professor Nigel Shadbolt and key political journalists including Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian, Michael Kallenbach of UK Press Gazette and - to ensure broad appeal to all ages - Matthew Darroch Thompson (aka Webster) of The Oldie.
And because accessibility is vital in engaging people with disabilities, all sites were also appraised by AbilityNet, the national charity that helps disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology.
Judges were looking for MP websites that successfully engage and excite, yet usefully inform with honourable purpose. In addition, judging criteria took into account ease of navigation, accessibility and effective use of modern media techniques such as blogs, pod or video casts and instant messaging.
According to BCS chief executive David Clarke, "IT now offers the world of politics the ability to present itself in a more exciting and communicative form. Today's computer technology enables ministers and MPs to engage with constituents and voters in a two-way dialogue that enhances the democratic process.
"If used creatively and with IT processes that are familiar to young people, it will also attract and persuade more of them to take a keener interest in the political process which is surely vital for the safeguard of our democracy."
Speaking for the judging panel, Professor Nigel Shadbolt said that standards varied enormously. Some of the worst comments were: "Is he more interested in himself or his voters?", "Wouldn't vote for him.", "Which party does this woman belong to?" and "Self promoting as usual."
Professor Shadbolt added: “Of particular concern was the large number of MP websites that failed to be shortlisted because they failed the accessibility test.
"This means that the large minority of the population with various disabilities would be unable to properly access these sites. And this last category, particularly with an ageing and increasingly IT reliant society, they ignore at their political peril.
"The best were able to combine excellent content with newest forms of media, such as video and blogging in a bid to get up-to-date, relevant and well-written information out to a cross-section of their constituency."
Category Winner: Paul Flynn MP
Finalists: Boris Johnson MP, Mike Wood MP
Category Winner: Derek Wyatt MP
Finalists: Richard Spring MP, Tom Brake MP
Category Winner: Alan Johnson MP
Finalists: Malcolm Bruce MP, Adam Price MP
Best MP Website Award 2007
Winner: Adam Price MP
Finalists: Lynne Featherstone MP, Richard Benyon MP
Highly Commended MP Websites
Nadine Dorries MP, Boris Johnson MP, George Galloway MP