Tim Farron is the most engaged MP on twitter

Tim FarronAnalysis of politicians’ tweets by Demos shows Tim Farron to be the most engaged MP on twitter, while of the three party leaders, Nick Clegg is the most likely to interact with followers, as measured by the proportion of @ replies.

The think tank’s stats shine a light on the three biggest parties’ leaders. Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg tweeted 48 times in total, of which seven were “@ replies”. Leader of the Opposition and head of the Labour party Ed Miliband wrote 58 tweets, of which just two were “@ replies”. And Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, sent 45 tweets, but not a single “@ reply”. He is joint bottom of the table with scores of other MPs who didn’t send any replies either.

The level of engagement from the leaders is low compared with most MPs then, but does it really matter? Do we expect our most senior politicians to be sending personal replies to everyone who contacts them on Twitter? In reality, most political leaders delegate responsibility for their Twitter account to their teams, so it wouldn’t be true to say they’re too busy to reply to everybody. But there are other good reasons they might choose not to. They might engage with their constituents in other ways, and might not want to focus on simply those who are active online.

A glance at my own recent twitter activity shows a preponderance of @ replies, but then I was having a conversation yesterday on Free Schools and education policy, with two other Liberal Democrats. Most of the rest are retweets; we are not told whether these count as interaction in the methodology used.

Carl Miller of Demos thinks politicians have a difficult balance to strike. “In the wake of Emily Thornberry’s resignation, they know that a single tweet can cost them their job,” he says. But he suggests that engagement online is becoming more important. “A new digital divide is opening between politicians using social media only to speak, and those also using it to engage.” He thinks it could mean “digital headaches” for the mainstream parties. Their smaller political rivals are far more responsive on the network.

Full report on the BBC

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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4 Comments

  • There was a interesting discussion of this on The Daily Politics. I almost felt sorry for the Tory MP from central casting who seems to have a horror of anything more recent than the 18th century and is appalled by the idea of being in close touch with his voters. He was however quite comfortable with the ludicrusly expensive silver forks and spoons used in the many restaurants and watering holes in The Palace of Westminster.

    I have no time for Twitter myself, I prefer political discussions argued in slightly more than half of sentence.

  • Jack Davies 10th Mar '15 - 1:02pm

    I know Tim is very engaged on twitter and that, so far as I can tell, the Lib Dems are by far and away the most interactive party in terms of social media presence.

  • @JohnTilley – “I have no time for Twitter myself, I prefer political discussions argued in slightly more than half of sentence.”

    I mostly agree with your sentiment , however, Twitter is quite a good tool for encouraging brevity in making a point, something some of the more long-winded on this blog could learn.

    I hasten to add that I don’t include MatthewH in this view, as I often find his posts educational and persuasive – well thought out ideas put across in a structured manner without bullying undertones. I’m also happy that he has over the last few 2 years better understood why , although many of us accept the LibDems did the right thing by the county going into coalition, we are unhappy with many of the ill-thought-out policies that the LibDem parliamentary party have blindly supported .

  • Jimble 10th Mar ’15 – 7:53pm

    Yes, you make good points.
    Your final point — “..we are unhappy with many of the ill-thought-out policies that the LibDem parliamentary party have blindly supported .” is of course a theme that Matthew has consistently elaborated on.

    Those in the Westminster Bubble even now see incapable of understanding why we are so unimpressed with them when they limply vote for, defend and implement far-right Conservative policies like secret courts out of some sort of odd, misplaced loyalty to “collective responsibility” or the Palace of Westminster old boys act.

    Some of what has been done in the name of The Coalition by Eric Pickles and Iain Duncan Smith has clearly been the polar opposite of anything to do with Liberalism. Our MPs have mostly trooped off to vote for vile saloon-bar Toryism because Nick and Danny have demanded that they should.

    Tim Farron has been less guilty of this Blindfold Coalitionism than most. Perhaps that is a positive impact of his involvement with the voters, via Twitter?

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