Liberal Democrat MPs lead the way on Facebook

With Facebook apparently reaching into every corner of British life, I thought it was time to see how far MPs were catching on.

So I’ve worked with a couple of colleagues to look up over 600 MPs from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties (excluding the Speaker and Deputy Speakers) to see how many have Facebook profiles.

It’s not an exact science, since if someone’s profile is private you can’t be sure if it’s the real thing or a spoof, but this is the tally:

Conservatives:
24 MPs out of 195 on Facebook (12%)

Labour:
47 MPs out of 352 on Facebook (13%)

Liberal Democrats:
25 MPs out of 63 on Facebook (40%)

If any Tory or Labour commentator has a longer list of their own party’s MPs on Facebook than is reflected in these figures, and wants to send me the list of names, I’ll be happy to update the figures.

Among the Liberal Democrat MPs, leader Ming Campbell has over 2,000 friends from around the country and has an active profile. Personally, I’ve concentrated on connecting with my constituents, and have been encouraged to have more than 1,000 Northavon twenty-somethings willing to be my Facebook friends.

Can we draw any conclusions from this?

Being partisan for a moment (!), it would seem that for all the ‘WebCameron’ hype, the wider Tory Parliamentary Party doesn’t seem to be embracing social networking in a big way.

I also think that it is no surprise that it is Lib Dems who have taken social networking the most seriously. Lib Dem philosophy and our way of doing politics sits well with the Facebook ethos of being accessible, removing barriers to communication and reaching out to young people. As the figures show, it’s clearly not an exclusively Lib Dem thing, but it’s good to see our party leading the way.

Coming soon … the league table of Liberal Democrat MPs and who – after Ming – has the most friends!

Steve Webb is MP for Northavon and Chair of the party’s general election manifesto writing group. He blogs at www.webbsteve.blogspot.com

Update: The BBC and The Guardian, and ThisIsLondon have picked up this story.

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13 Comments

  • Quite a few Lib Dem councillors are on Facebook as well. Which inspires me to start a new group…

  • Interesting stuff.

    I looked to see what is happening in the US and facebook is providing an enhanced service – we should study how this works in due course.

    However, I was amazed at how many friends Barack Obhama has – over 122,000 and at least 3 times his nearest rival, clearly a lot to learn as we are in the infancy of usuing / undrstanding how this works and impacts people.

  • I for one left that group some time ago as the race seemed pretty much over. But as a proportion of the party membership, we’re still doing the best of the three.

  • Hywel Morgan 9th Aug '07 - 9:20pm

    “However, I was amazed at how many friends Barack Obhama has”

    At this stage of the 2004 primary race all the talk was about Howard Dean was using the net to reach new voters and fundraising and it was going to change American politics. Ultimately he didn’t win a single state.

    I’m sceptical about Facebook – I’m a friend of several MPs. However I never actually bother to look at what they’re saying.

    From my experience, some of our leading MPs might be better advised in looking at why they don’t reply to emails.

  • Letterman (8) makes a good point. As we all know, size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts.

    The differential between LibDem MPs and non-LibDem MPs on facebook is promising, but simply being on there isn’t enough. It’s how each MP uses the site that matters.

    I think Steve’s success at attracting 1,000 constituents to become his facebook friends is a useful example of what can be done. His ability to communicate quickly, easily and above all cheaply with them is incredibly valuable. That must surely enhance his ability to know the views of a good chunk of his constituents. Well done Steve.

  • Your number of facebook friends is apparently a very good predictor of whether you will win student union elections at LSE. Whether we can translate that to a party political setting is the challenge – almost all candidates here are independents.

  • Hywel Morgan 11th Aug '07 - 8:20pm

    There is one (at least) very good rebuttal to my Howard Dean point. Which is that it did lead to him winning one signficant election which was that of Chairman of the DNC – something which arguably had a knock on effect to the Democrat performance in the 2007 House elections.

    My theory is this suggests that he made great inroads into the Democrat activist consciousness and has built on that since.

    This theory seems to be supported by the Joe Lieberman election where the blogging team got him “deselected” in the primary but he still went on to win the full election.

    I haven’t read the Trippi book – maybe I will and will change my mind (though I am inclined to think he would claim to have changed the world 🙂

    It’s that area – activist engagments (and recruitment) where I think blogs etc can have a big impact.

    It is also possibly a way of making an impact with younger voters – though it seems popular in more areas than others. Not many people on FB at Huddersfield for example. RE LSE is the number of FB friends that indicate election winners – or is it that people with the most friends have always won LSE elections but now you can measure it 🙂

    A wider impact is harder to see as – ultimately – it is the more interested/more supportive people who will get the best results.

    The other factor, which I touched on above, is that engagement via Facebook requires more than setting up an account but actually to engage with the people who then sign up to it.

    I’ve no doubt that Steve is very good at this because that approach runs through a lot of stuff he’s done throughout his time as an MP (and before) – and it’s one reason why I rate him very highly.

    However if other MPs follow through their approach (at least in my experience) of not responding to blog posts or even emails I don’t see why they will make an impact with Facebook.

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