I am hugely proud to be able to serve the North East Derbyshire constituency and it is a responsibility which I take extremely seriously. I try to make myself as accessible and open as I can – being out and about in the community, holding residents’ surgeries, visiting businesses and organisations, organising regular public meetings, responding to all correspondence (even if it takes a little time to do so), regular Facebook Live sessions and online or physical briefings on key issues. I have two offices, one in Eckington and one in Clay Cross, so that residents have the best access to myself and my team throughout the year.
Alongside or as part of this, I use both Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media channels to let constituents know what I am doing, to explain the objectives of the Government and to highlight what is going on in the constituency. My Facebook page (www.fb.com/lee4ned) is updated very regularly and is the best place to find out more about what I am up to. We are just starting to use Instagram more, too (www.instagram.com/lee4ned). I really don’t particularly like Twitter (or think that you can boil most issues down to statements of 280 characters or less) but I do use that to some extent aswell (www.twitter.com/lee4ned).
It goes without saying that, as a Member of Parliament, I have a particular political viewpoint which I know not everyone will agree with. I also know that others will have their own views and opinions which I respect, even if I happen to disagree at times. Everyone has a right to take a different view as they wish. I strongly welcome differences of views, diversity of opinion and for people to highlight where they do or don’t agree with me.
Yet, specifically on social media, unfortunately, there are occasions when things can go too far. I strongly defend the rights of people to say what they want and there are thousands of different parts of the internet where people can exercise that absolute right. It doesn’t mean, however, that people can act with impunity and without regard to others on the social media channels we manage.
As a result, we have a very limited number of ground rules for our channels. These are fluid and are designed to only be used when necessary (and we will always try to strike a balance) but they cover scenarios such as:
- Rudeness, threats or extensive swearing;
- Repeated divergence from the topic under discussion;
- Repeated and active political posts from other parties, their supporters and their representatives (who are most welcome to set up their own page for that purpose);
- Spamming posts or other posters;
- People who are clearly not from North East Derbyshire and who are not adhering to good manners and conduct, and;
We really don’t want to use these rules often, and we try to give as much latitude as possible, but we will stop people posting if repeated transgressions are evident or if the individual act is of sufficient severity. We also operate a yellow card warning system in many instances which highlights to people that they are getting rather close to the line, too. In the end, though, we may have to use them and, when we do, our decision is final.
We want to stress that none of this, to date, has been used extensively and we want to welcome constructive, open and even critical discussion. We have thousands of people who interact with this page on a weekly basis and, since 2017, we have only had to remove the rights to post from around one person a month – and we’re keen to keep that number as low as possible. The ultimate aim is for our social media to be places where North East Derbyshire residents can discuss, debate and feedback calmly and openly, recognising that not everyone will agree but remaining calm, reasonable and good mannered when that happens. Equally, I hope people will acknowledge that our social media is not the primary home of the North East Derbyshire Labour / Liberal Democrat / Green parties or the continuity Remain campaign (or their supporters) and, whilst they are more than welcome to get involved in discussions and make their views known, that they might wish to use another page on Facebook to engage in repeated and extensive debate or tell me how personally disappointed they are in me for pursuing the manifesto which I was elected upon or having the temerity to believe that centre-right policies generally improve society in the long run. Everything on social media is, ultimately, a balance and we will continue to welcome as many people as we can to get involved in discussions.
I should also say that I value all comments posted on social media and try to read as many of them as I can. Myself and the team do respond at times but, due to the volume of comments that are often received, we cannot guarantee that we can do so in all instances. If you are definitely wanting to raise something with me as an MP, I’m afraid that I can’t guarantee that I will definitely see it in a comment. To ensure you receive a response, it is best to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails are responded to as quickly as is possible.