john redwood

Politicians and Social Media; or How Not to Use Twitter

Whatever Dr Phillip Lee MP’s future Twitter-tomfoolery, it will have an audience of at least one fewer after today.

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:

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:

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.

John Redwood Wants Your Letters

John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, would like residents to email him to tell him that they oppose the Health and Social Care Bill.

It may surprise readers to learn this, but I don’t always watch the BBC’s flagship political debate show, Question Time. I enjoy it (most of the time) and with the advent of twitter and the #bbcqt hashtag it makes it all the more interesting to be able to interact with and contribute to the debate as it’s unfolding. Of course, the counterpoint of this is that it can sometimes be a little trying as an experience.

Last week, however, I did watch it. I had debated whether or not to, with the excellent Rachel Reeves being a mark in the plus column, and the increasingly barking and offensive David Starkey a reason against. I didn’t actually know that Wokingham’s own John Redwood, a man not-undeservingly called “The Vulcan”, was representing the Conservative side of the argument until I turned on.

When John was asked by an audience member why, if the Health and Social Care Bill is so good, it is taking so long to pass, he predictable blamed that old red axis of the Labour Party and the Trades Union. He then went on to make this statement:

“I don’t find, as Rachel does, that this is a matter of great controversy in my constituency. I’ve had very few letters and emails about it, and my general practicioners are just getting on and implementing it because they like it and they want to make a success of it.”

At the time, I took the route of the cynic and simply tweeted this:

I didn’t think much beyond that, to be honest, but John decided to make his own digital response- not to me specifically, but tweeters in general. This is something of a pleasant surprise, as since Mr Redwood’s twitter account only tweets new posts to his blog, I hadn’t thought it was manned by him or even a real person. But clearly someone checks tweets directed at it, so I guess they aren’t in vain. Hope springs eternal.

On his blogged response, John further claims that the emails he has received to date have had no addresses attached, so he concludes that they were not from constituents. I don’t think this is a particularly unreasonable conclusion, but I do stand by my tweet. I am convinced there is opposition to this inherently flawed bill, even within Wokingham. I don’t, however, expect John “heir to Thatcher” Redwood to find any problem with the privatisation and fragmentation of the health service.

John goes on to say this:

“If any constituent does wish me to consider objections to the Bill or wants me to take matters up with Mr Lansley, I remain as always very happy to do so and will reply personally to you as I always do. I would be grateful for you to include your address so I can see you are a constituent.”

Which, as they say, sounds like fighting talk. So, if you live in Wokingham constituency and want to let your MP know your feelings about the Health and Social Care Bill, why not drop him a letter or an email (with your address included) to the below address(es):

The Rt Hon John Redwood MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

And just as an explanatory note, I haven’t (and won’t) write to Mr Redwood, as I’m not a constituent of his. By a quirk of electoral boundaries, whilst lying within Wokingham local authority Wargrave is inside Maidenhead constituency; so my MP is the Rt. Hon. Theresa May. I will, however, be writing to the Home Secretary to outline my opposition to the bill, because according to John that’s what counts. I would have thought that my letter to the Maidenhead Advertiser the other week, signing the e-petition against the bill, and previously holding forth against it in all manner of media would have been enough, but there you go.

If any of you are interested, I may post my letter to Ms May on this blog, so you can use it as a template.