As I write this, the sun is shining and it seems that silly season, and the summer, are finally upon us.
School’s out for politicians too, as the Commons is now in its summer recess until September.
With such a lengthy break from legislative action, how can our politicians keep the public engaged in politics?
While I would argue that not much replaces face-to-face interaction, the internet provides huge opportunities for MPs to keep getting their point across in the quiet summer months.
Indeed, in the digital age, politicians should be thinking of social media communication as another version of face-to-face interaction.
With this in mind, politicians should seriously consider running online Q&As, something that is less possible when the House is sitting and MPs have to run from meetings, to debates, to votes.
There are lots of ways this can be done, with Twitter hastags the most obvious. Google+ video hangouts also work, as does Reddit’s ask anything feature, or even Facebook comment threads.
Supporting and promoting local campaigns online is always good, but likely to get more attention over the summer when there is less news (see Tessa Munt’s Twitter feed on the recent row over milk prices, for example).
Another way MPs can use digital tools to maintain interest is spending a couple of days out in the constituency with a video camera, producing a range of local and national content, to update constituents about issues they have been campaigning on. Oh, summer also means you have time to edit stuff properly too!!
These couple of months is also a great opportunity to utilise the email list that all MPs should have, to email constituents about their actions over the last few months, and start a two-way dialogue. Indeed, that long under-used blog can get updates on it too.
The excuse from people in politics I often hear for them not getting involved online is that they simply don’t have time.
The truth is that most of the things I have just written about are not time-consuming, and they certainly aren’t difficult, but they just help build a broader profile when politics is not the top news story.
I don’t believe for a minute that most politicians spend their summer break on the beach with their BlackBerry turned off.
They undoubtedly have more time during summer recess, and it is a great opportunity to start using some new online tools.
This makes it more likely that MPs will then start engaging in online during term time too, and social media will become embedded into their communication strategy.
Having said all that, perhaps it’s best that we all turn off Twitter, get a nice cold drink, and worry about sport and the Olympics, not politics, for the next couple of weeks.
Charlotte Henry blogs at www.digitalpoltico.net