Politicians and Twitter: why The Times is wrong

So – Rachel Sylvester in The Times has taken a dislike to politicians who use Twitter.

What particularly gets my goat is the comment from “psychologist Oliver James” who claims: “Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.” Well – I don’t think you’ve ever met me Mr James – and I’m sure they are millions of other Twitter users who you’ve not yet either. And no-one would have time to read the tweets from everyone who uses Twitter. So you’re diagnosing millions of people who you’ve never met – and whose words you’ve never read. Not impressed!

Not surprisingly, I also take issue with her claims about how politicians have reacted to the economic crisis – “The opposition parties are quick to criticise Labour’s decisions but find it hard to say what they would do instead.” Can I introduce you to Vince Cable perhaps?

But what’s really wrong with the piece is the idea that politicians shouldn’t move with the time. I don’t send telegrams. My campaign team has no carrier pigeons. I hardly ever use a classical reference in my speeches. And that’s because I’m not a Victorian politician. Times change. The public changes. Today – 2009 – many of my constituents and other people are on Twitter – and so it makes sense for me to be too. If that’s how they choose to get information, it’s not a lack of identity that makes me honour those choices – it’s respect for the public.

Of course you can’t squeeze everything into 140 characters – but then I’ve not stopped doing other, wordier things (such as this blog, leaflets, speeches etc etc). And as for the parting line in The Times about the need to have politicians with moral fervour – I agree.

By the way – I’ve not counted, but I’m pretty sure you could fit each of the 10 commandments into a 140 character tweet (or the equivalents from other religions). Brief messages doesn’t mean you can’t have beliefs or passion!

0 thoughts on “Politicians and Twitter: why The Times is wrong

  1. I’m not a Twitter user, but that comment from Oliver James sounds like something you’d expect from your local pub psychologist over a pint or three, not an experienced, published academic. Perhaps the paper got confused and mistakenly called Oliver James, the Southport footballer.

  2. Politicians are doing the right thing by trying to keep up with new technology – but only if they are using it properly. Noone wants to know what an MP is cooking for their tea like it was revealed on Andrew Neil’s DP show over a week ago. As long it is not trivial stuff i’m all in favour…

  3. There is a rumour going round Parliament today, saying that you don’t actually write this blog yourself. Is it true that a called Mark writes it for you?

  4. My (not to be taken seriously, Mr Schilling) theory is that he’s had collateral damage from his own initials by association.

  5. No – it’s not true. I write my blog myself. Don’t know where this came from. There is a ‘Mark’ and he is my webmaster.

  6. Journalists, and by this I mean po-faced commentators, don’t like twitter because it leaves them looking as irrelevant as they must surely know they are.