2017 General Election - Digital Businesses, do what you do best.

This article is not intended to persuade you to vote for any particular party but to call for as many people who are eligible to vote to actually do so. Many people say the First Past the Post voting system is not ideal, and that Proportional Representation is a better alternative. But you have to vote for change and make your voice heard, regardless of the voting system.

The Government recently reversed its decision to increase National Insurance for the self-employed following a public backlash; this shows your voice can cause a Government U-turn in a matter of days.

Things don’t stop after the ballot paper has been completed. Politicians should always be held accountable and be ready to justify their voting record. We can’t always get what we want, especially if the party that we voted for, or our favoured candidate, does not win. But having a strong opposition is crucial for a strong democracy – and strong unity is required in times of crisis.

Voter registration and participation levels are horrifically low in the UK, and I am sure all parties want this to change. MPs and Governments can be elected even if they attract only a small percentage of the vote when compared with the actual number of people eligible or registered to vote. This can raise questions about a government’s mandate to lead, and whether it truly represents the views of the nation. But, only the votes that are cast can be counted.

We are now living in age where Social Media is hugely successful at engaging the public and raising awareness: viral campaigns like the ice bucket challenge, breast cancer fundraising initiatives and big corporates making their brands well known, are just a few examples. I regularly read and hear digital companies praising Social Media for raising awareness, getting strong messages out, fighting for just causes, conveying beliefs, being an effective communications channel and achieving very responsive engagement.

I therefore can’t understand why Social Media, which is so popular among the demographic with a low voter participation rate, cannot be used to help reverse political apathy. I recognise there are many other ways to reach out to people, but as someone who runs companies in the IT and Digital Tech sectors, I question why we can’t apply the same principles and conversion rates when it comes to politics.

The Bournemouth and Poole areas were highlighted in the 2017 Tech Nation report, and ranked highly as areas experiencing strong Digital Tech businesses growth. My feeling is that everyone involved in the local Digital Tech industry should be asking candidates their views on what they will do to help the sector and ensure it continues to thrive.

Digital Tech business owners should make staff aware and encourage them to engage and participate in the election process.

I recently decided to see how easy it was to engage with the political parties, so I reached out to the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates. I only chose those three candidates due to time constraints – there are others, of course.

Initially I made contact via Twitter. I received a lengthy letter from Conor Burns (Conservative). Subsequently, through further discussion via Twitter, I invited David Stokes (Labour) and Jon Nicholas (Liberal Democrats) to come to my office to talk to me and to some of my staff. I want to make clear that I extended that same offer to Conor Burns, but at too short a notice for this article, which is my fault.

I thank all the candidates for the time that they graciously spent with us. It shows that engagement was really quite easy and that they were also willing to respond formally in writing or meeting in person.

I had wanted to write more on their responses and the conversations, but not being a journalist or a particularly good writer I didn’t want to end up with something that did a disservice to the goodwill they showed.

In the end, you can easily meet them on the campaign trail and directly ask your questions.

These are just some of the points raised:

  • acknowledgement of the work and investment done to bring the digital economy to where it is now, and the future investments in the Lansdowne regeneration
  • education is important to ensure that the local school leavers are equipped to enter the changing business world and opportunities, and that the university acts as a conduit to local businesses
  • access to skills and labour is still open and easy, to fill gaps
  • ensure the region is an attractive place that workers want to come to
  • diversity of business sectors and sizes
  • affordable housing for a diverse workforce
  • infrastructure investment

Because of the Brexit referendum I felt compelled to do something different this time round, and wanted to use Social Media to reach out and engage. I wanted to do my bit, because I believed in it.

If you have read this to the end, then I hope you will spend a few extra minutes to encourage friends and family, to encourage their friends and family to register and vote in the 2017 General Election. I want people to convert their opinions, comments and hashtags into actual votes on paper.

Deadline for voter registration is midnight Monday 22nd May. Website: Voter Registration

Connected Bournemouth seminars

I went to the second of the Connected Bournemouth series of discussions and networking events, at the Steele Raymond offices last night. When we talk of Bournemouth, we mean the larger conurbation that encompasses Christchurch through to Poole in reality.

There was a short talk by Chris Thorpe about robots, automation and Artificial Intelligence and the impacts that will bring to the employment. This was really interesting, an eye opener and very worrying if it all comes true.

The central theme of the night's event was about how to give Bournemouth access to the best talented workforce. How to entice and retain?

We broke off into smaller discussion groups and the feedback collated with the aim of the council enacting on key points raised.

This was my view.

Read more: Connected Bournemouth seminars

From culture to kultcha in London

Being in London and not being there to run around from one business meeting to another can be really nice.

The aim was to get up early to beat the tourists on the East Weekend, but wasn't to be but we still did get to the Natural History Museum before midday. Not sure why we didn't enter by the nearest entrance on Exhibition Road from South Kensington tube station and instead walked to the other end on Queen's Gate but it doesn't really matter. I can't remember when and if I came here last time, but I made it my mission to do this museum and then the V&A.

We didn't see the iconic Hintze Hall and Dippy the dinosaur as that was closed off, but we did see huge whales suspended in the air in one hall, and a fantastic Tyrannosaurus Rex moving model. Not sure you are the best parent when holding a screaming toddler at the front of the display in line with the roaring head.

A bit slow moving at times what with families, buggies, backpacks and so on, but you just have to go with the flow - literally - and enjoy it. Aside from the awesome displays of the dinosaur bones, we both enjoyed the human biology section and the Earth section.

We took a little break after the NHM and had a coffee with the best sausage roll I've tasted over at Gail's Artisan Bakery. There are plenty of eateries by South Kensington station for everyone's tastes.

Read more: From culture to kultcha in London

Bournemouth Air Festival Patrons Club

Through one of my companies we have become a member of the Bournemouth Air Festival Patrons Club. The donations goes towards the clubs activities, to the air festival and charitable contributions.

I've been to two of their monthly events in the run up to the air festival. One was the ex-Red Arrows pilot Ben Murphy, who was Squadron Leader when disaster struck the festival in the tragic death of pilot Jon Egging, and another was a talk on Charles Rolls (one half of Rolls Royce) and how he took part in an air festival by Hengistbury Head and died in a crash there.

All very interesting and I can't wait till we get a chance to get on board the large Navy vessel that overseas the air festival.

Echo... Echo... Echo...

Wow, the Bournemouth Echo did an interview with me and they've only gone and published it!

Time passes by so quickly that I didn't realise that I have been down in Bournemouth for so long, over 21 years. We talked about what I used to do and what I do now. Compared to the huge number of digital startup companies around here, I do feel like a Digital Dinosaur.

This is the longest I have lived in a single place, and do firmly call it home.

Click for Bournemouth Echo Article