My MP has amassed six times as many followers on Twitter as I have – despite the fact that he never tweets! It just goes to show, it’s not what you say but who you are when it comes to gaining a Twitter following.
I discovered this when I decided to follow Tory Crispin Blunt (Reigate) only to find that he has not uttered a word since he commented “test” in September 2009. I and his other 352 followers are eagerly sitting by our PCs waiting for the next utterance from our parliamentary representative.
Blunt’s not alone in his lack of interest in the internet. His fellow Surrey Tory MPs Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell), Paul Beresford (Mole Valley), Jonathan Lord (Woking) and Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton), don’t appear to be on Twitter at all – though Raab is on Facebook.
Other Surrey MPs toy half-heartedly with Twitter; perhaps someone’s told them to do it but they’re not convinced. Kwasi Kwarteng in Spelthorne went through a spell of tweeting in the run-up to the elections in May last year but hasn’t uttered since.
Education minister Michael Gove of Surrey Heath has issued only 15 tweets, most of them last month.
Of the remaining Surrey MPs – all Conservatives – culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (south west Surrey), Anne Milton (Guildford) and Sam Gmiyah (East Surrey), are all active on Twitter. Gmiyah seems to be a particularly keen user.
I accept that being a social media user is not necessarily a qualification for being a good MP: Twitter is fairly new to all of us and we all managed our jobs perfectly well without it in the past. I daresay those MPs who don’t use it would say they are too busy handling parliamentary business or dealing with constituents’ problems to sit down and mess about on the internet. But it would certainly seem to be a way for politicians to raise their profiles and to communicate quickly and easily with constituents.
Be that as it may, I’m still a bit peed off that my 57 followers @susanfenton – actually not bad for a newbie and growing slowly but steadily all the time – can be so easily beaten hands down by someone who’s only ever tweeted once.
Blunt’s 353 followers pale into insignificance against higher profile politicians like Ken Livingstone, with 14,000, Diane Abbott, with 22,000, George Galloway, with 37,000, and avid tweeter and “cyber warrior” John Prescott, former Labour deputy leader, who has an astonishing 92,000 followers.
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, also has 92,000 while Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and leader of the Lib Dems, has 65,000. Boris Johnson, London mayor, outdoes the lot of them with 192,000. Interestingly, David Cameron has only 6,000 in his own name, though 1.8 million as “prime minister”.
As a newcomer, I’ve totally revised my previous opinion of Twitter as being an outlet for the intellectually vacant to talk about what they had for breakfast. Some do Tweet frequent updates on what train or café or airport they’re in, apropos of nothing in particular. But if you want interesting, intelligent, challenging or alternative views – and instant, informative updates on topics that interest you, you can easily find them on Twitter. Maybe more MPs should try it.
PS Have just spotted that @PhilipHammondMP, which purports to be the Twitter account of transport secretary and MP for Runnymede and Weybridge Philip Hammond, is actually a spoof. Do go and have a look – he says some funny things, like “William Hague wears underpants made of tweed. He suffers terribly with chafing”.
Pic credit: Naypong, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2617