MP launches podcast

IAN CLARKE They used to stand on street corner soapboxes and the stages of draughty village halls to get their political messages across.

IAN CLARKE

They used to stand on street corner soapboxes and the stages of draughty village halls to get their political messages across.

But MPs are now plugging into hi-tech ways of keeping in touch with their constituents.

The centuries-old corridors of power at Westminister are now awash with websites and brimming with blogs and as politicians add the internet to their communication tool kit.

And yesterday North Norfolk Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb launched himself into the brave new world by introducing a new podcast service - an audio bulletin which can be downloaded to people's computers and MP3 players.

It puts him alongside the likes of BBC Radio One' Chris Moyles and comedian Ricky Gervais fighting for the chance to grab a slice of people's home entertainment megabytes.

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While the world of podcasts is dominated by downloads of pop music, comedy, radio programmes and news, Mr Lamb is hoping that people will log on to hear him talk about local issues and national politics.

By visiting his website and clicking on a link called Radio Lamb people can hear Mr Lamb's first podcast highlight:

t local health concerns including his Hands Off Our Hospitals petition

t post-16 transport for students

t the recent visit of the environment minister Ian Pearson to North Norfolk

t new Liberal Democrat 'green' taxes

t suggestions for a wind turbine at North Norfolk District Council offices

t the future of RAF Coltishall

t the Lib Dems' prospects in Norfolk and the new Broadland constituency

Mr Lamb said it was important for MPs have a dialogue with their constituency and his podcast, which he believed to the first by am MP in Norfolk, was just one way in achieving that aim.

He would continue to use press releases, and newsletters, and stressed that he would continue to do his regular constituency tours, visiting villages to find out about real parish pump issues.

But there were many people - both young and old - who got their news and information through electronic sources.

“We have to recognise that younger people get their information in a very different way these days, and they are an important group, with all the talk of them getting disengaged from politics,” he added.

The MP is heard chatting to former television presenter Richard Swallow, now a media consultant, because Mr Lamb thought a conversational style was better than a speech.

Mr Lamb's agent Simon Wright said the podcasts were likely to appeal to younger people, but he agreed they were no substitute for the traditional hustings work of travelling around a constituency and meeting people face to face.

“I don't expect we will get to loads more people, but it is a useful extra tool,” he added.

EDP Media Watch columnist Tim Youngman also had doubts whether the podcasts would have a major impact.

“It is another way of trying to get people to listen to the message. But how many people will of go out of their way to download Mr Lamb's podcasts, compared to Ricky Gervais?”

t The top five podcasts listed by Itunes yesterday were:

1 Ricky Gervais, also featuring The Office co-writer Stephen Merchant

2 Chris Moyles Radio One breakfast show

3 Best of Scott Mills - Radio One

4 National Geographic video shorts

5 Russell Brand - BBC Radio 6 show highlights

t Norman Lamb's podcasts can be accessed by: visiting the website at www.normanlamb.org.uk and clicking Radio Lamb to download to a PC and iPod; signing up for email updates flagging up when new podcasts are available; setting up a podcast feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/NormanLamb which automatically downloads new reports.

t An audio clip of the podcast can be heard on www.EDP24.co.uk