Southend Politics & Social Media: Part 1 – Meet the Tweeters


tweeting on sea

Like it or not, the internet has changed politics dramatically in the last few years. It has changed the way that people interact with issues — local and national — and it has changed the way that politicians and activists campaign.

This has, of course, been taken up in varying ways and with varying different degrees of success by different parties. Twitter, for me, is an indispensable campaign tool, giving easy reach to hosts of potential voters, many of whom are towards the younger end of the demographics — and therefore statistically less likely to vote.

So I figured why not let my inner stats nerd loose on the Twitter use of Southend’s political actors? That’s sure to draw in the crowds, right?

Members of Parliament

Okay, first thing is first. Southend includes two parliamentary constituencies, both held by the Conservatives. James Duddridge (Rochford & Southend East) is on Twitter. It’s a pretty workmanlike effort, and may even be run by himself, offering a selection of platitudes, retweets of local “things” and whatever Grant Shapps decides Tory MPs should be tweeting that week. Not very exciting, but that’s James all over — and at least he’s actually there.

Because David Amess (Southend West) isn’t. Which is somewhat perplexing, actually. Maybe he’s just not that tech-savvy. Maybe he doesn’t want to engage with the public after the roasting he got over his expenses. Maybe he thinks his solid majority means he doesn’t need to. Whatever the reason, he’s not there, and so we have to go to the local paper for his rants about “too many foreigners” and calls to boycott the Premier League.


There are 51 councillors on Southend Borough Council. There are (by my count) 10 of those 51 on Twitter. Not exactly awe inspiring, eh?

The below table shows the breakdown of tweeting councillors by party (and the pretty graph is just because):

Party Councillors on Twitter Total councillors
Conservative 2 19
Independent 0 13
Labour 5 9
Lib Dem 1 5
UKIP 2 5

Southend-on-Sea councillors on twitter

The immediate thing that I notice, is that Labour have both the most councillors on twitter, and the biggest proportion of their group on twitter. Strikingly, the Independent Party Group have none. These are people who see themselves as political upstarts, defenders of accountability in the face of the terrible political parties. And yet not a one of them is interested in using Twitter to reach potential voters and the residents whose interests they claim to care about? Bizarre.

The Tories are doing predictably poorly, though their count was a little better before West Shoebury’s Tony Cox lost his seat in May. Worth noting is that I’m not sure whether Mark Flewitt strictly counts (though I have included him). His account has one tweet, from April 2012, which is begging for help defending his seat. Offered without comment.

The Lib Dems look to be outdoing the Tories in proportion at least, save that their only tweeter (Carole Mulroney) uses it essentially as a bulletin board for local “stuff”.

UKIP, perhaps surprisingly, seem to be doing quite well. Two councillors, Moyies and Callaghan, out of five are on Twitter, and although the latter’s account is almost unused, Moyies is pretty good at it. I did find an account which may have been Cllr Burling, but as I couldn’t verify it I didn’t include it.

Twitter Politics More Generally

Below is a table breaking down Southend councillors, activists and commentators who are on Twitter, including number of tweets and followers. It is ordered on the latter, and I’m not doing too badly I don’t think. Fourth place, above many who should probably be doing better.

Name Affiliation @ Tweets Followers
James Moyies UKIP JamesMoyies 2723 9,507
James Duddridge CON JamesDuddridge 2204 5,090
Julian Ware-Lane LAB warelane 6562 1263
Matthew S Dent LAB MatthewSDent 28100 1121
Ian Gilbert LAB CllrIanGilbert 2331 944
Neil Monnery LD NeilMonnery 41,200 917
Del Thomas CON greatdelmondo 4199 590
Kevin Robinson LAB westborokevin 7532 293
Tony Cox CON shoeburyblogger 1051 200
Carole Mulroney LD CaroleMulroney 268 187
Gray Sergeant LAB GraySergeant 149 163
David Carrington LAB DW_Carrington 2171 156
James Courtenay CON JamesCourtenay 611 144
Maggie Kelly LAB maggiekelly9 210 111
Cheryl Nevin LAB CherylNevin 505 96
Tory Pier CON ToryPie 387 83
Carl Whitwell UKIP cwhitwellukip 14 76
Helen Hargreaves LAB HelenHarg 35 75
Jonathan Hodge CON JonathanHodge 72 42
Mike Royston LAB MikeRoystonUK 92 37
Tino Callaghan UKIP CllrTino 4 20
Southend Fox N/A southendfox 14 17
Mark Flewitt CON MarkFlewitt1 1 2

I believe that Labour are winning and will win the online battle in 2015. And here is my exhibit 1. When it comes to Twitter we have the most tweeters, and are doing well on the visibility of those tweets. It’s a small thing at the moment, but given that I was using Twitter to win people around to vote Labour on election day, it has the potential to be important.Notice who is top — and who isn’t. I’ve been saying for a while that James Duddridge is in trouble, and the fact that he, a sitting MP, is behind James Moyies, unheard of outside of Southend and UKIP circles, is another piece of evidence in my favour. And comprehensively at that — Moyies has nearly double the number of followers. This doesn’t translate into vote proportion, of course, but I’d love to hear Duddridge explain how this is really a good thing for him.

Note: this list is imperfect. I’ve done my best to track down those accounts I can, but if you feel I’ve unfairly overlooked you, then leave a comment or drop me a tweet, @MatthewSDent.



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