Fantasy Frontbench – giving the public a way to compare politicians

This is a guest blog post by Matt Smith, who is a learning technologist at UCL. He is interested in how technology can be used to empower communities.

Introduction

Fantasy Frontbench is a not-for-profit and openly licensed project aimed at providing the public with an engaging and accessible platform for directly comparing politicians.

A twist on the popular fantasy football concept, the site uses open voting history data from Public Whip and They Work For You. This allows users to create their own fantasy ‘cabinet’ by selecting and sorting politicians on how they have voted in Parliament on key policy issues such as EU integration, Updating Trident, Same-sex marriage and NHS reform.

Once created, users can see how their fantasy frontbench statistically breaks down by gender, educational background, age, experience and voting history. They can then share and debate their selection on social media.

The site is open licensed and we hope to make datasets of user selections available via figshare for academic inquiry.

A wholly state educated frontbench, from our gallery.

A wholly state educated frontbench, from our gallery.

Aim of the project

Our aim is to present political data in a way that is engaging and accessible to those who may traditionally feel intimidated by political media. We wish to empower voters through information and provide them with the opportunity to compare politicians on the issues that most matter to them. We hope the tool will encourage political discourse and increase voter engagement.

Skærmbillede 2015-04-17 kl. 16.41.54

Uses in education

The site features explanations of the electoral system and will hopefully help learners to easily understand how the cabinet is formed, the roles and responsibilities of cabinet ministers and the primary processes of government. Moreover, we hope as learners use the site, it will raise questions surrounding the way in which MPs vote in Parliament and the way in which bills are debated and amended. Finally, we host a gallery page which features a number of frontbenches curated by our team. This allows learners to see how different groups and demographics of politicians would work together. Such frontbenches include an All Female Frontbench, Youngest Frontbench, Most Experienced Frontbench, State Educated Frontbench, and a Pro Same-sex Marriage Frontbench, to name but a few.

Users can see how their frontbench in Parliament has voted on 75 different policy issues.

Users can see how their frontbench in Parliament has voted on 75 different policy issues.

Development

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to develop the site, introducing descriptions of the main political parties, adding graphs which will allow users to track or ‘follow’ how politicians are voting, as well as adding historical frontbenches to the gallery e.g. Tony Blair’s 1997 Frontbench, Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Frontbench and Winston Churchill’s Wartime Frontbench.

For further information or if you would like to work with us, please contact info@fantasyfrontbench.com or tweet us at @FantasyFbench.

Acknowledgements

Fantasy Frontbench is a not-for-profit organisation and is endorsed and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.

Javiera Atenas provided advice on open licensing and open data for the project.