Lynne the twitterer

Congratulations to Lynne Featherstone, who has become, she believes, the first British MP to use the Twitter instant messaging system, just slightly less than one year after I first suggested on my blog, and in the forums here (party members only).

Those of you unable or unwilling to read the forums will be unaware that the idea was initially dismissed out of hand by influential party bosses, before they went on to embrace it wholeheartedly.  Now the entire Innovations Department is happily twittering away.

Barely a month afterwards, the party used Twitter for a highly successful if under-used election day results broadcast system. That has since been relaunched to a similarly successful and similarly under-used short news system.  Follow this link for full instructions on how to sign up to it.

A quick google, and I find a Guardian story about Alan Johnson MP using Twitter for his Labour deputy leadership election campaign. In the US, however, Twitter is much more a part of the scene.  Both Clinton and Obama have feeds – as did pioneer John Edwards until, erm, about four months ago.

Back on this side of the atlantic, you can get twitter updates for Iain Dale – barely three minutes ago he posted the all-important information about heavy snow in Tunbridge Wells.  And the following Lib Dem luminaries use twitter:

My next bright idea for Twitter is an opt-in Conference service for vital conference information like where’s uneaten free food, what’s hot on the fringe, oh, and maybe, vote-by-vote updates from the conference floor.  Watch this space…

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This entry was posted in Online politics.


  • Tony Greaves 22nd Mar '08 - 10:10pm

    What sad people.

    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies…

    The sooner you all fly away and leave the world to serious people the better.

    Tony Greaves

  • Alex, there is a need for us all to keep up to date with this; but many of us will need guidance. Anywhere we can get a LD idiots guide to understand all this? As for Tony, he’s been beyond guidance for more than a generation.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Mar '08 - 2:21pm

    It’s twittering that is puerile playground posturing!

    There are some serious points here. One of the shocking problems about the way we are going is the degree to which everything is more and more instant. And the more instant it gets the more trivial it gets.

    Another serious point is that just because something exists does not mean it is good, useful or should be used. For instance I use email because it is useful (though it has it’s downsides such as the explosion of unnecessary communication it has caused, and the decline in written politeness and increasing familiarity in serious formal communication which is a thoroughly bad thing).

    Twittering seems to me to have few real benefits and none at all in a political context.

    (I suppose it’s a sign of the times that quoting a line from the greatest English poet
    since Shakespeare is thought to be “puerile posturing”!)

    Oh wad some pow’r the giftie gie us…

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Mar '08 - 2:24pm

    Apologies for the rogue apostrophe. I can’t find a way to edit my postings here.

  • Hywel Morgan 23rd Mar '08 - 3:41pm

    Look at the number of followers the “leading Twitter’s” identified above have. It’s pretty clear that this is far from any sort of mass medium. Facebook, twitter, blogs, even websites and bulk emails all have as their defining characteristic that people have to “opt-in” to access the information. That makes them very suitable for activist recruitment/encouragement/development but less so for mass communication.

    The bigger issue is that when you put a political message in front of people there is a lack of engagement – I don’t belive that the answer to this is just to find a a more sophisticated technological way of putting information in front of people.

  • As a technophobe of a similar generation to Tony Greaves (no mobile, don’t know how to text, never looked at Facebook) I’m not quite a dismissive as he is. Our problem today is the overload of information we are bombarded with, but Hywel is quite right to point out that the new technologies are allowing people to decide for themselves what information they want and how they are going to access it. I ‘found’ LibDem Voice as a result of a bulk email from Lord Rennard about a year ago and it has changed the way in which I get my political information (I still subscribe to LibDem News but read less of it – the by-election results I get the next day from John Hemming or Sean Fear on, and frankly it is more interesting to read an article on LibDem Voice and be able to join in a discussion about it than it is to write and post a letter to LibDem News). The new technologies are changing politics in ways that we cannot necessarily forsee: I doubt that Twitter is the future, but then I don’t understand why my grand-daughter spends so much time on MSN. Tony may be right about the trivialisation of politics, but this has been going on ever since the monopoly of written communication was broken by radio, film and television. And for every Scot who went to hear Gladstone speak at inordinate length in Midlothian there were probably a hundred down the pub.

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