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18 May 2007

Will MPs use their Communications Allowance effectively?

By Tom Marchbanks

The Temple’s ancient staircases and cobbled streets lent a historic setting to a New Media Awards debate.

The debate: “Will MPs use their Communications Allowance effectively?” focused on the merits of the £10,000 MPs would be given to help communicate with the electorate.

On the panel was: David Wilcox, social media consultant, Tom Steinberg, director of mySociety and Derek Wyatt MP (chair of the All Party Internet Group).

Listening to the speakers, the audience where treated to surroundings akin a Mayfair club, complete with marble columns and a 1920s bar.

The diverse audience, included someone who had set up a magazine aimed at the homeless and a former journalist who was using his pod casting skills to empower local action.

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As the debate commenced, it became clear there were reservations about how well the allowance had been thought through. Another issue was whether the money would, or should be used for internet communication.

Derek Wyatt MP regarded the funding as “very important” for those MPs on a small communications budget and thought “there would have been many more” in the audience who felt the £10,000 was a waste. Tom Steinberg was less enthusiastic, fearful the money might be misspent on political spam.

In the end, the conclusion seemed to be that there were no expectations of the allowance being used to its full potential.

You can view more photos from the event on Flickr and listen to the Podcast