MPs heading for electoral online disaster
Will they have learnt lesson from 2001?
A huge number of MPs risk breaking electoral rules in May if they don't get to grips with the Internet.
Under Electoral Commission guidelines, once Parliament is dissolved for the election - expected 5 May - they lose the right to call themselves MPs. As the Commission may clear in the last election in 2001, this also applies online, so the individual standing for election is not entitled to misrepresent themselves as an MP.
That in itself is not too difficult to deal with - you only need remove any suggestion that they remain MPs. However, it is a bigger issue with domain names that incorporate the "MP" suffix. And there are now nearly 100 MPs that have personal websites that include the initials "MP". Most significant is leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, who you can find at www.michaelhowardmp.com.
But also under scrutiny will be the home secretary Charles Clarke and his pal Ian Gibson at norwich-labour-mps.org.uk, and 90 other members of Parliament including various high-ranking politicians.
Last time round, we revealed that a number of politicians including Anne Widdecombe and Gavin Strang had been forced to take their sites offline. This list was then extended to cover another 11 MPs, some of whom had added disclaimers to the front of their websites and others who had failed to do anything at all.
This May, the issue will be bigger thanks to the number of MPs that have discovered the internet in the intervening four years. And, considering the dirty tricks played so far, still two months away from the election, it's a good guess that MPs breaking electoral rules may crop up during the hustings frenzy.
But maybe we are unfairly pre-empting them. As soon as Parliament is dissolved maybe every single MP will flick the switch on their site. We're not holding our breath though, and neither its a new website that has been setup to cover the election - Backing Blair.
Despite its title, Backing Blair is doing the very opposite and has a wide range of amusing anti-Labour content including a constituency-by-constituency database that will advise you who to vote to have the greatest chance of ousting the Labour candidate.
One of our favourite sites from the last election - Spinon.co.uk - is also apparently bringing itself out the deep freeze for another stab at enlightening the masses by making them laugh at stupid cartoons.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for what the MPs' websites do. A full list is below, courtesy of Backing Blair. If you spot your MP and want to warn them or even cause them some trouble, your chance will soon appear. ®
The full list of MP sites
http://www.islandmp.org (Andrew Turner)
http://www.nigelmp.com (Nigel Evans)
http://www.norwich-labour-mps.org.uk (Ian Gibson and Charles Clarke)
http://www.prestonmp.co.uk (Mark Hendrick)
http://www.shona-mp.com (Shona McIsaac)