People powered lobby group 38 degrees is a UK focussed organisation that helps members of the British public engage with their elected officials and campaign on issues that they are passionate about.  They use the Blue State Digital platform, the same platform as Obama used in his election campaign, and this allows individuals to send completely editable and personalisable emails direct to their appropriate Member of Parliament.  38 degrees currently has over 140,000 people who have taken action with them sending individual emails on a range of different issues, from saving 6music, to engagement with the Digital Economies Bill and welcoming new MPs to their offices after the election.

Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, is one such MP but he has taken umbridge at the lobby group and asked them to remove his details from their system, citing that “hundreds of campaign groups like yours, flooding MPs inboxes with pro-forma emails creates an undue administrative burden.”

The initial email discussion can be read on 38 degrees‘ blog where they have published the contents of emails from both sides, including Raab’s threat of involving the Information Commissioner and resulting in Raab’s removal of his publicly funded email address from the House of Commons listings.

Google News links show that this has been picked up by many news outlets and has caused somewhat of a stir…culminating in a live discussion between David Babbs of 38 degrees and Dominic Raab on Radio 4’s PM programme.

Most MP’s have no problems with receiving emails and other contacts from their constituents and neither did Raab before the election, however he now seems to be changing his tune especially when the content of emails was on the Alternative Voting system a left leaning proposal.  On top of that it turns out that since Mr Raab entered into office the average number of emails sent to him by 38degrees has been less than 2 a day. Hardly an administrative burden.

Most email clients allow you to set rules up to automatically move emails into sub-folders and directories (hopefully not the recycle bin) for later response, however Mr Raab’s decision to remove his email address from Parliament’s directory is not only a sign of colossal arrogance and potential misunderstanding of the role he has been elected to but also an affront to democracy as a whole and the cleaner way of doing government that his party and coalition has promised.

At a time where social networking and new media fails seem to be common place, with Nestle’s PR nightmare and Apple’s iPhone issues, it seems that Parliamentarians will be looking on to see how this pans out.

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