Southend Tory activist thinks politicians shouldn’t be scrutinised

gavin chambers endorsement

If pressed to describe my political blogging, I would usually go for “robust”. Doubtless those who have found themselves criticised on this blog might describe it in different terms, but I am quite satisfied with my coverage of local politics in Southend.

So I am going to rebut quite emphatically the accusations of Tory activist Gavin Chambers, who this morning out of the blue tweeted me this:

gavin chambers tweet1Always nice to meet a fan (I think he means Blenheim Park, by the way -Ed).

Anyway, what followed was a slightly different morning experience.

Read on…

Attack of the (Twitter) Clones

send in the clones

Twitter is a weird place, sometimes.

A while back an account cropped up with my name on it, my profile picture, following a lot of folks who I follow/follow me, but which definitely wasn’t me. It hung around for a while, until I was deeply weirded out, a number of people had commented upon the oddity, and it had been reported a number of times over. And then it was gone.

Which would have been strange enough, but to make this a little more Twilight Zone, the last week has seen two more of these things appear. The first tweeted a stream of Russian gibberish before going the way of the dinosaurs (Extinction, not evolving into birds… -Ed). The latest is just sitting there, watching me.

I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a weird mix of creepy and intriguing at the moment, and I’m wondering if I’m about to be replaced by social media body snatchers, or if we’re in for a Chronicles of Riddick moment where they all kneel before me and I use them as an army to take over the world.

Hopefully the latter.

More likely the former.

(I, for one, welcome our new spambot overlords -Ed)

But for the moment, accept no imitations. Check the Twitter handle and what language the account is tweeting in. My Russian, I have to say, is incredibly rusty.

A saga of a spambot – a conclusion, but no answers…

user suspended

Last week I blogged about the strange Twitter account that had appeared, with my profile picture, my screen name, and following a good deal of my own followers, to the cause of no small confusion.

Well, sinister as that little development was, it appears to be over. The account is now suspended, following a report to Twitter by myself and some other kind persons. I’m relieved, yes, but also a little disappointed. There is absolutely no closure. I don’t know what it was planning, who was behind it, what in the hell it was.

Somewhere out there, my social media nemesis waits, plotting, scheming, waiting for it’s chance for revenge. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

So apparently I have a clone…

twitter impersonator

So this is a bit weird…

The other day I had a sudden glut of concerned messages about my Twitter account potentially being hacked. It wasn’t, you’ll be pleased to hear, but the truth is looking profoundly stranger.

You see, apparently I have a double. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I’m not sure whether to be pleased or upset. I’m leaning towards the latter.

So what looks like a spam account has duplicated my name (though not the handle, that remains me), my profile picture, and has set about following a whole bunch of the people who follow me. More than a few of whom have contacted me to ask what it’s all about.

The answer? I’ve not got a clue.

Seriously, it hasn’t tweeted, it hasn’t moved, it hasn’t done anything. It’s just sat there. Watching me. Waiting.

I’ve reported it to Twitter, but it seems to be a slow process. In the meantime, make sure that you’re following the real, genuine, honest-to-god, accept-no-imitations Mad Man with a Blog, @MatthewSDent.

Southend Tory MP blocks voters, rather than answer questions

james duddridge blocked

In Southend, it seems, history repeats itself.

Back in October, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Rochford & Southend East, James Duddridge — my MP — decided that he didn’t want to answer my questions about the amount of public money he had claimed in order to stay in hotels. As a commuter myself, I thought these questions were pertinent, and deserved an answer, and I sent tweets to him to try and get one.

Since he didn’t agree, Mr Duddridge blocked me.

I don’t feel I deserved this, but I suppose I am an opposition activist. Maybe that trumps being a constituent. I happen to believe that an MP should work for all of their constituents, but in a constituency he plainly thinks is “safe”, maybe James Duddridge doesn’t see the need.

Thing is, I’m not the only constituent who has been blocked by Mr Duddridge for the heinous crime of asking questions. In fact, it seems to be his stock response to any that he doesn’t want to answer. Like his bizarre ideas on the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

Read on…

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?

Read on

It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it: a view on Hugo-gate

jonathan ross

Sorry, I lied.

If you haven’t heard about the debacle which unfolded over the weekend, the summary is this: Jonathan Ross was going to be hosting the 2014 Hugo Awards; some people weren’t too impressed with the choice of him as host; in the resultant controversy, he ended up stepping down.

Now, there are plenty of opinions floating around here — too many, in fact — and I don’t really want to get into the substantive issues. I doubt that this post will make me many friends, but if I wanted a quiet life I wouldn’t have a blog. Or a Twitter account. Or the internet. In fact I’d live in a cave somewhere, cut off from the rest of the world.

But what the hell, eh?

Read on…

David Cameron doesn’t get the internet

david cameron

Today, the Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted about Facebook. In particular, he tweeted about Facebook’s decision to again allow users to post videos of people being beheaded.

Mr Cameron was, of course, against Facebook’s decision. That’s no surprise. So am I, incidentally. I don’t see that there is any cause to allow such patently disturbing and upsetting material onto such a mainstream social network. The fact that Facebook is reportedly “considering adding warnings” is not only irrelevant, it’s verging on insulting.

The problem, then, is not with Mr Cameron’s position on this, but with his tweet:

Read on…

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.

Tweet for Victory

Twitter seems to have been setting the Wokingham local election campaign trail alight the last few weeks.

I nearly missed the Wokingham Times article this week about local election tweeting– but for, ironically, a tweet alerting me to it. I was interviewed for the piece about a week back, so the fact that I had forgotten all about it should stand as a testament to how busy I’ve been this week.

But yes, the local election has seen a surge of Wokingham borough’s councillors and budding politicians take to the internet and engage in a deep and passionate discussion of local policy. Or maybe not. Before I go on, here are my comments to the Times:

Twitter user Matthew Dent, who is standing for election in Wargrave for Labour, said while there are not many election candidates to communicate with on Twitter, the interaction with residents had been useful.

Mr Dent said: ‘It is about gauging people’s feelings on issues.

‘It is very hard to discuss policy in 140 characters, but issues such as the bins are easier.

‘The wokyrubbish hashtag is being used a lot and it allows you to have conversations with other Twitter users about what the problems are.

I was a reluctant Twitter user at first. It took me a while to get into it, and become the tweeting virtuoso I am now. To expand on what I said to the Times, Twitter has its uses and its problems in pretty much equal measure.

On the one hand, it’s a good way to reach local residents who might not be reached by traditional campaigning techniques. Over the couple of years I’ve been using it I’ve built up an interesting network of contacts, and it can make for some very interesting mass discussions.

The example of the waste scheme is a good one, to that effect. The hashtag, a creation of the Wokingham Times, linked together many people’s complaints and comments on the scheme and made it easy to get a picture (a partial picture, perhaps) of public opinion.

But one obvious drawback is that the picture is partial. In many ways, this is a drawback of any canvassing method. You can’t talk to everyone, so you cannot get a truly accurate version of popular opinion. And, indeed, Twitter use tends towards a certain type of social, tech-savvy individual- slanting the sample.

Another problem is the size limit. 140 characters is not much, which makes for a good deal of creativity. But it can also pare down discussions to their most basic level, which isn’t always…helpful.

There’s also the aspect of how you use it. Wokingham MP John Redwood is, for some reason unknown to me, considered a skilled user of Twitter- despite, as far as I can see, only using it as an alert system for new posts on his blog. Personally, I prefer to combine political discussion and blog-alerting with general life. “Tweeting human”, as the phrase goes. Canvassing people directly through Twitter can be an irritation and increase hostility- but using it to communicate with people can do just the opposite.

I don’t keep separate Twitter accounts for campaigning and personal use. I think that residents and voters being able to see me as a real person, not just a canvassing machine, will help them relate to me, and make them feel more comfortable talking to me about local issues. With the rubbish fiasco, that has really paid off.

So what is Twitter? Well, it’s a campaign tool. A very effective one, in the right hands and with the right strategy, but certainly not a replacement for good, old-fashioned pavement pounding.