iFAQs: Power to the People

For this week’s iFAQ, we have tried something a little different. Rather than emailing councillors or other relevant individuals with questions for them to answer, we decided to carry out an experiment to see how responsive each local party would be to random members of the public emailing them about local issues.

The ground rules

We asked five Medway residents of various backgrounds to pick an issue of interest to them, and asked them to raise it with the five main Medway political parties – Conservatives, Labour, UKIP, Liberal Democrats, and Greens.
We did not instruct them how to do this, as part of the experiment was to see how easy it was to contact them in the first place.
We asked each participant how easily they found contact details, how fast responses were, and whether or not they were relevant to the questions asked.
Issues raised were of genuine local concern to the participants, and ranged from SureStart closures to parking to regenerating high streets.

Participant #1

Our first participant managed to email the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens about their chosen issue, and could not find a way of contacting UKIP.

Of these four, only Labour replied at all, doing so within three working days. A subsequent followup response was received within two days. Our participant is not a natural Labour voter, but was happy with the responses received from the party.

Participant #2

Our second participant found email addresses for the Lib Dems and the Greens, and used the contact forms on the websites of Labour and Conservative to contact them. They were unable to find a way to contact UKIP.

This participant received no response from the Conservatives or the Greens. An extensive, relevant response was received from the Lib Dems, inviting the participant to engage further and providing more contact information. They also received a response from Labour, saying that their question had been passed to the relevant councillors to respond further, but no further responses arrived.

Our participant described the responses of most parties as ‘pretty poor’, but was happy with the ‘substantive response’ received ‘relatively quickly’ from the Lib Dems.

Participant #3

Participant three managed to contact Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems, and Greens via their websites, and like the others, was unable to find any contact details for UKIP.

They reported that the Lib Dems responded fastest, with a ‘lovely reply’ sharing their concerns, and even offered to meet to discuss their concerns. A response was also received from the Conservatives, but our participant found their answers were ‘not very nice or friendly’. Labour responded after a couple of weeks, claiming to also share the concerns of the participant. No response was received from the Greens.

Participant #4

Our fourth participant didn’t manage to send any emails to our local parties. We’re including this here because it seems relevant that a working parent found it was too time consuming to seek out contact details for political parties in the little free time available to them. While this is only an experiment, it’s interesting to note perhaps how inaccessible these kinds of contact details might be to certain people.

Participant #5

Our final participant found contact details for the Lib Dems and the Greens. They also found an email address for Vince Maple as leader of the Labour group. They could not find any contact details for the Conservatives or UKIP.

This participant did send their emails later than the others, but despite some time passing since they were sent, no responses were received. Our participant described this as ‘quite shocking’.

Conclusion

While we don’t claim these five experiences to be representative of all contact with Medway’s political parties, it is interesting how few responses were received throughout the experiment.
The Lib Dems seem to have performed best on this measure, with participants who received responses from the party being satisfied with their responses.
Labour managed to reply to a majority of contacts, but some participants felt these were sometimes lacking.
The lack of responses from the Conservatives and Greens was disappointing, as was the inability for any users to find a way to contact UKIP.

What is your experience with contacting our local political parties? Do you also find the Lib Dem experience to be the best?
Can you actually find contact details for Medway UKIP?
Let us know in the comments below, drop us a note on Facebook, or send us a tweet.

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