BLOG08: Blogging and politics

BLOG08Boris van der Ham, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives

Boris van der Ham has been voted the most web savvy of the Dutch House of Representatives and thus apologizes for presenting from paper. The main thread of his story is why a politician would go on the web and start a blog.

BLOG08

The first thing he did in 2002, when he ran for parliament, was to build a website. While he thought the design was really poor he used the website very often. Three years later he started a blog on the large Dutch social networking site Hyves. He did it as a PR tool, to be able talk to his voters and try to connect to the people voting for him. Van der Ham calls this the most superficial reason to start a blog as a politician.

One of the other reasons was that the blog enabled him to reflect on things. He has a very busy agenda and he noticed that when he sits down for fifty minutes a day he has time to think and to reflect. The main topic he writes about are his daily experiences. Taking time for his blog entries enables him to find the exact right words for it and he can be more creative. He uses parts on these reflections for television interviews or newspapers and enables him to rehearse for what he refers to as the fast “20 seconds” media. His blog helps him to prepare for the media.

Blogs have often been compared to diaries and Boris van der Ham also picks up the diary metaphor. He had been keeping a diary til the age of fifteen and now he’s been writing one online for three years. What he likes about documenting his reflections online in the form of a blog is that he can go back in time to see what his ideas on a particular topic were two or three years ago.

One of the more political reasons why Boris van der Ham keeps a diary is that you’re not attached to the constrains of your political party. Every political party is very strict on what you can say, especially if you’re not the spokesperson of that topic. What van der Ham dislikes about (the Dutch) politics is that only official spokespersons can talk about certain subjects. Now he can be more open on his blog. He sees his blog as a good instrument to break open the rules of party discipline. He considers it to be a democratic good thing to have a blog. A blog is a personal thing, just as politics are a personal matter as people are looking for personal recognition in a politician. He admits that blogging will never open politics for a hundred percent but his personal reason for blogging is the hope that it will help to open it a bit.

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