I have today unfollowed Dr Phillip Lee, Conservative member of Parliament for Bracknell, on Twitter.
Some of you may be surprised to find that I follow Dr Lee, but even though I don’t live in his constituency and am an avowed opponent of his Party and his politics, I still like to follow such figures because that way I get the full picture of both the political debate and of what is going on in my local area. I follow a variety of figures from across the political spectrum.
And I didn’t unfollow Dr Lee because I took exception to his political position. Indeed, I can’t actually tell you any of his positions because I don’t know of any time it has substantially deviated from the Conservative Party line. No, the reason I unfollowed him was because this evening he tweeted almost 50 of these:
— Dr Phillip Lee MP (@DrPhillipLeeMP) July 8, 2012
Almost fifty. I think there are forty nine, but it was quite hard to count them on my laptop screen. It wouldn’t be a problem, but they were tweeted near-simultaneously, and clogged up my Twitter feed, taking attention away from other tweets which might have, I don’t know, actually had merit?
I don’t really know what’s going on here. Maybe he’s been fielding some criticism that he hasn’t been doing enough work. If so, I’m not sure that annoying all 646 of his followers (is it churlish of me to point out that I have more, and I’m just some annoying guy who likes to mouth off?) is the way to go. The videos seem to be all of his speeches in the House of Commons and select committees, and even if people do care, show me the person who sat and watched forty nine of the damn things.
I really don’t understand how MPs can still not be getting Twitter, and social media in general. Dr Lee is far from the only one, either. His constituency neighbour, Wokingham’s John Redwood, uses his own as a glorified alert feed for his blog. On the one hand, he doesn’t use it to actually engage with anyone, but at least he doesn’t generally post fifty blogs at once. Which is nice.
(I should also point out that John’s online engagement is better in other ways. He responds to comments on his blog, and even to comments on the Wokingham Times website. So whilst everyone’s favourite Vulcan’s politics may be both wrong and distasteful, at least he’ll acknowledge my disagreement.)
It’s even more annoying that there are MPs who get it right. There are a growing number who actually communicate with the community and the people following them. On the Labour side of the house, Bristol East’s Kerry McCarthy does a sterling job, and whilst she has questionable ideas how it should be run, at least Louise Mensch talks about issues and responds to her followers.
But my personal favourite tweeting MP has to be Jamie Reed (Copeland), who doesn’t let his shadow minister’s brief get in the way of a) sounding human, b) being interesting and c) being funny:
To all slagging Cameron for chewing at the tennis: be fair, he’s usually hammered by this time on a Sunday, having watched a box set.
— Jamie Reed (@jreedmp) July 8, 2012
UPDATE: It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one bemoaning Dr Lee’s terrible use of social media: journalist Ian Dunt has included the good Doctor on his list of the ten worst MPs on Twitter, in at number three.