If you’re a user of mySociety’s Democracy-focused sites, such as TheyWorkforYou and WriteToThem, you may notice a few changes during the election period.

Generally speaking, the sites just work. Sure, there are a bunch of tasks we’re managing on a daily basis behind the scenes, but none of those need bother you, the user. To employ a tired old metaphor, the sites glide swanlike, while under the water there’s some busy paddling to ensure that the latest debates, votes and representatives’ contact details are all present and correct.

During an election, though, that paddling becomes a bit more visible, and some services may be interrupted.

WriteToThem

You want to contact your MP? Here’s the thing: officially, you don’t have one at the moment.

Parliament has dissolved. The representatives formerly known as MPs are no longer allowed to refer to themselves as such, and their parliamentary email addresses have been withdrawn.

So when you visit WriteToThem, you’ll see this message where we normally provide the link for writing to your MP:

What WriteToThem looks like during an election

Note that you can still use WriteToThem to contact all your other representatives, from local councillors to MSPs, Assembly members, MEPs, etc — provided that your issue is relevant to them (you’ll see a short list of the types of issue each representative deals with, on the site).

If you’ve got something to say about the current political situation or a matter that you’d like your MP to vote on, though, you’ll just have to wait. Even if your former MP is standing for re-election, they’re most likely dedicating a lot of their time to canvassing, and of course they won’t be taking any issues into the debating chamber just now because Parliament is not in session.

Where it becomes a little more tricky is if you have a constituency issue you want an MP to help with. Perhaps consider if it’s something your local councillor/s may be able to help with instead — it’s always worth asking them, anyway. If not, and if it’s an urgent matter, it may be worth calling your former MP’s office, as some (especially those standing for re-election) will still be running a bare bones service.

If your issue is not urgent, then wait until a couple of weeks after the election. In particular, if you find yourself with a brand new MP they’ll be finding their feet, setting up staff and office equipment, etc.

TheyWorkForYou

You’ll see the word ‘former’ used a lot, if you visit TheyWorkForYou over the next few weeks. For example, the homepage generally has a prominent link to direct you towards your own MP’s page. These days, it looks like this:

TheyWorkForYou showing the woird 'former' during an election

And if you do click through to any MP’s page, you’ll see that they now have this below their name:

On the page where we list all MPs, you’ll see this factually accurate message at the top:

If you want a list of who the MPs were, it’s still there, you just have to click the link.

And then there’s one more thing: of course, as there are no debates taking place in Parliament, we’re not sending out Westminster email alerts (you’ll still get those from Scottish Parliament and the London Assembly, though).

When will everything be back to normal?

Our friends at Democracy Club collate the election results as they come in, producing data that we can then import. Thanks to them we’re generally able to update TheyWorkForYou pretty much in real time. So, when you wake up in the morning you’ll hopefully be able to:

  • Check who your MP is;
  • If it’s someone new, sign up for alerts so you get an email when they speak.

For a little while, of course, new MPs will have very little content on their pages: you’ll see a message to say that data will start to appear once they’ve done a bit more.

WriteToThem takes a little longer to get back up to speed: that’s because we need to import all the MPs’ email addresses, and these can take a while to come through. If we’re using an official parliamentary email address, experience shows that they may not even be set up by Parliament for a short while.

So please be patient — as we mentioned earlier, it’s probably best to wait a couple of weeks before contacting your brand new MP in any case.

Meanwhile…

While mySociety sites are fully operational in the periods between elections, there are other organisations who swing into action and do their best work during this time.

So here are a few things you can do, thanks to those other orgs, while you wait for mySociety’s democracy services to return to normal.

  • Visit WhoCanIVoteFor and WhereDoIVote from Democracy Club to discover who your local candidates for the General Election are, what they stand for, and where to find your nearest polling station.
  • Upload scans of the political mailouts coming through your door to ElectionLeaflets, and help build a permanent archive of promises that elected representatives can be held to account for further down the line.
  • Get the Who Targets Me extension on your browser to see clearly who is behind the political ads you’re being served on Facebook.

And finally: if you have questions about the whole electoral process, read the beginner’s guide to the UK General Elections we put together in 2017. While the names and dates have changed since then, the facts are still the same.

Image: Reproduced with the permission of Parliament

Original source – mySociety

Comments closed