Jim Cousins

or "Not the real Jim Cousins Blog".

Friday, August 20, 2004

And this is how it went...

I finally met Jim at his constituency office the other night. It was in fact one evening earlier this week so this post has been overlong in coming. Sorry. I'm not setting a very good example am I? This post has been a hard one to write - I didn't want to misconstrue anything said nor promise anything that I may have imagined in my eagerness to get this going. I've started and restarted this so many times. Here goes.

The meeting was very encouraging. Jim was very interested in the process behind blogging and I explained how easy it was to publish information and updates about issues and ongoing campaigns within the area, to link to other sources to help his constituents get a better understanding of those issues and most importantly the ease with which his constituents can initiate dialogue with him.

Because of the comparatively high numbers of students and graduates in the constituency Jim knows there is a fair percentage of his constituents having guaranteed internet access thus having easy access to the blog. We discussed the fact that more people are getting on the net everyday so the prospective audience was probably going to include a much higher number of his constituents than the groups mentioned.

While agreeing the blog would be a very useful and powerful means to communicate with his constituents Jim isn't prepared to take the blog over yet. He does however want to try a few things out with the blog as a means to gauge how effective it really is. We all know that the ease of communication the internet has ushered in has also brought with it information overload, masses of spam and various other timewasters. His main fear is that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages so wants to dip his toe in the water.

So what does Jim want to try out? First of all he's going to put something together on various new laws and more importantly their impact on the local area. He knows how boring press releases are so we won't just get a rehash of the latest Westminster communique. But the most exciting thing he wants to try is posting something on a local issue inviting responses direct to his email address via the blog. He will be garnering feedback for this through the usual channels as well so it will be a good test to see the quality and quantity of responses through the blog compared to the traditional means of cavassing opinion. To make sure enough constituents know about he will include the address of the blog in upcoming newsletters. I've been suprised at the relatively high visitor numbers but only a minority of them are local. Hopefully that should change soon.

The final details of what the actual content are to still be worked out but Jim seemed really enthusiastic about it so it shouldn't be too long before we get to see. Hopefully the trial proves to be a positive one and Jim will want to do more or preferably take over the blog entirely. Stay tuned for more soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I'm going to see Jim Cousins

There was me thinking August was going to be a bit quiet on the Jim Cousins Blog with Parliament on their summer holidays. But there's been contact between myself and Jim.

Over the course of the last week I've been exchanging emails with his Research and Constituency Worker. The gist of them is that they've offered help with resource materials for this blog in the form of FAQs on Jim's views and copies of other materials on various matters. Jim is also interested in all forms of communicating with his constituents and is aware the internet is playing an increasing role in everyone's lives. Not quite a "Give me my blog please" but definitely a step in the right direction.

The upshot of these emails is that I'm going to see Jim soon to talk about blogging and the role it can play in an MP's communication tool box. Thanks Jim (and Jo!).

I've never mentioned it up until now as I wanted to wait until a concrete meeting had been arranged. Additionally ALL email to this blog will be, and has been, treated with the utmost confidentiality and not mentioned until explicit permission has been given to do so. So if you've been putting off contacting this blog over fears of my repeating anything said in an email - fear no longer. Some local peoples views on this whole business of MPs and the internet would be more than appreciated bearing in mind the upcoming meeting.

Update: And this is how it went...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Jim Cousins' Constituency Surgery Schedule for August 2004

Jim Cousins' Constituency Surgery Schedule for August 2004 Here is the second installment of Jim's surgery schedule.

6th August , 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Customer Services, Newcastle Civic Centre Map
7th August , 11.00am - 11.45am
Wyndham Primary School, Wyndsail Place Map
13th August , 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Customer Services, Newcastle Civic Centre Map
20th August , 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Customer Services, Newcastle Civic Centre Map
27th August , 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Customer Services, Newcastle Civic Centre Map
Newcastle City Council's listing for his schedule can be seen here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Alan Milburn, meet (NOT) Alan Milburn

Mike, who is running the Alan Milburn blog, has moved one step closer to getting his MP online. His MP is very interested in the idea and he was invited to the constituency offices to discuss the situation with constituency works. Go on Mike!

Come on Jim - don't let Alan beat you to it! Click here to email me.

Read more here.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Web of intrigue as 'blogger' tracks MP

So goes the headline in this article in the local paper, the Journal, about Jim Cousins' blog which from my point of view is better than any number of mentions in the Guardian as it has more chance of reaching Jim's constituents. On the downside they didn't print the website address (at least in the online version - I'm yet to see the print version) which in this day and age when talking about a website is a very big downside. At the very least though this should have been read by at least a few local people who have managed to find their way here. Which is just as well as I don't think I'm quite up to a sticker campaign!

Apart from a few minor inaccuracies, like extending my offer of a few months technical support to a year (Which I'll honour Jim - it get's better and better.), the now obligatory 'web logger' reference, saying I update daily (I wish I had the time - that's where Jim comes in I hope), the fact I may reveal my true identity and the omission of my explicit statement that computer programming has nothing to do with it and is in no way required to write a blog the the journalist did at least do a bit of background on the reason for doing it including a mention for Tim at Bloggerheads and the Alan Milburn proxy blog, just down the road from here at Darlington.

Still no comment from Jim. If any of Jim's constituents are reading this and think it's a good idea then let Jim know.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Hello Jim, goodbye not the real Jim?

I've had an email from Shane McCracken who has been doing some research on what MP's think of their blogs being run by proxy. After he had emailed Jim, Jim's constituency researcher telephoned him to ask him if he was not the real Jim Cousins. Of course he isn't - I am!

I've just had a call from his constituency researcher asking what my interest was in the matter and to find out if I was "NTRJC"

I think the researcher seemed a little panicked as though the idea of a proxy blog was a dangerous thing. I think you'll have a reaction from Jim soon.
About the same time I had a hit on pretty much every page from the same person so I'm guessing that was the researcher. So Jim are you ready to claim your free blog? No strings attached whatsoever except the promise to keep it updated so we, your constituents, know what you are doing. It'd also be a handy place for online surgeries.

So the current situation is that I know that Jim knows about the blog and offer. Now I've posted this the whole world knows that I know that Jim knows about this blog. As the Guardian pointed out today you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't bother. Talk to me Jim. I'll even show you how to post and give you some technical support in your first few months.

Jim Cousins' Blog gets another mention in the Guardian

In an article titled "Falling through the net" the Guardian discusses MPs and blogging - or more accurately their lack of blogging and the fact the vacuum is being filled by proxy bloggers who may or may not be sympathetic to the MP they are proxy blogging for.

"'With the technology available, it's very, very easy for anybody to get online with a free weblog and to source all of the information they need to track their local MP,' says Ireland. The power of the blog can be illustrated by Ireland's blog dedicated to Tory MP Tim Yeo. Ireland's blog is the first entry in Google for the MP for Suffolk South, higher than the official profile on the Conservative Party site and the most likely place a prospective voter is likely to visit.

What's more, a number of bloggers have taken Ireland's suggestion. Now, MPs Jim Cousins, Sandra Gidley, Boris Johnson, Alan Milburn, Sarah Teather, Nick Raynsford and Lewis Mooney all have blogs dedicated to them and most are not friendly. The moral is: if you don't launch your own blog, someone might do it for you."
See the sidebar to the right for links to all the proxy blogs mentioned as the Guardian doesn't bother giving links for them as Chunter also points out. Luckily for Jim I'm one of the friendly ones. The offer in the profile still stands. Go on Jim - you know you want to.

In a somewhat related post it looks like Tim Yeo Ireland has come to the same conclusion - give it to them for free then they have no excuse not to take you up. If they do refuse they just look like the laziest luddites in the world. Wouldn't want one of those for my MP. ;)

See here for previous mention in the Guardian.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Jim Cousins backs congestion charges for Newcastle

The Evening Chronicle is reporting that Jim Cousins is backing congestion charges for Newcastle. Jim would like to see residents exempt from charges as they are in London. In addition to charges Jim would also

like to see park and ride facilities at stations such as Almouth and Morpeth. By tackling long-distance commuting we could tackle the traffic congestion on roads like the A1 Western bypass, which is getting like the M25 around London.
The A1 Western bypass has obviously been on Jim's mind as he asked a question about traffic levels on it a few weeks ago. I still think if they sorted out the constant roadworks and building traffic it would be much easier to travel across Newcastle.

Read Evening Chronicle article here.
Read BBC article about the Government's plans to reduce congestion here.
Read the Guardian's Editor briefing on the Government's plans here. See the BBC site about the congestion charge in London here and case studies elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bloggerheads is back!

Not exactly a Jim thing but Bloggerheads is the blog that inspired this blog. It was also the first site to link to to this one. Thanks Tim! Anyway the point of this post was that Tim had given up on his blogging but now he's back with a vengeance. I'm very pleased about that as I only found the site just before he decided to pack it in.

Will the real Jim Cousins please stand up?

"People felt the national government had slightly lost its way, that it was interested in things that weren't terribly Labour. I'm not saying that these were fair judgments, but that was what people felt."
The above quote was Jim talking about the spending plans that Gordon Brown launched last week a few days before the release of the Butler Report in an apparent bid to boost Blair's battered popularity ratings. That's since been followed up with a new crack down on crime announced. Presumably next week will see the announcement of an increase in the number of public holidays every year in Britain.

The Butler report was exactly as expected - just down to a few misunderstandings and no harm meant by anyone so how could blame possibly be attached to anyone? Just like another report released slightly earlier in America. It's a curious phenomenon this groupthink thing they're on about. Since the release of the Butler report we've had a stream of Labour politicians on the news saying how Tony was vindicated by the report and anyhow all's well that end's well because Iraq is rid of that nasty man. And all is groovy in UK because we're spending money, catching criminals and giving you more holidays. Hooray!

Which brings me back to the quotes from Jim. I think, and I hope that Jim thinks, that those judgements about Labour not being Labour are very fair judgements. He'd be naive to think that is a view that wasn't held by the majority of Labour supporters.

So what's groovy in the UK? Manufacturing in decline, siphoning of jobs abroad, widescale layoffs in the civil service, creaking health service, schools swamped with one daft initiative after another, higher education being priced out of the reach of many people, widespread poverty, old boy network scandals, lack of low cost housing, poor transport infrastructure and rampant yob culture. Sounds a bit Tory to me. In fact it's like the 1980s revisited.

And then there's the small matter of Iraq. Wanton slaughter of civilians, torture, show trials, people deprived of basic amenities, profits from oil not being spent on the people and mad displays of power and cruelty by the head of state. And that's all since we've liberated Iraq! Did I mention children being raped? So how Labour is it to go to war for nothing and side with one of the most right wing governments ever to be in power in the USA?

Still don't think our judgement is fair Jim? Regardless of the fairness it is our judgement that will elect the next government. The simple truth of the matter is Labour have had two massive majorities in a row for the first time I can remember and yet the popularity of the party seems to be at an all time low. For that alone the leader of the party must be held responsible. Tony Blair's personal popularity has plummeted recently mostly due to the war in Iraq and he is tarnishing the image of Labour. The man is a liability. If you want your seat in the next election Jim you are going to have to get rid of the millstone around the Labour Party's neck. Heed the warnings from the local elections or bury your head in the sand. Your choice Jim.