Politico WIN and Politico FAIL

Thursday, February 19, 2009 13:30 | Filed in Blogging, Politics, Public Sector, twitter

Over at ConservativeHome, there is a post entitled should councillors twitter?, which mentions the Cllr Tweeps website which keeps a list of all of the twittering councillors.

The post basically describes twittering as micro-blogging, the poster admits to being on twitter but using it mostly to follow what other people say, rather than taking much of an active role himself, and ends by asking the quite sensible question…

Have any councillors found Twittering productive so far?ConservativeHome: Local Government

As far as I can tell, the majority of the replies are from people who aren’t councillors, so not the sort of thing Harry was looking for specifically, but there are two key responses from people who are councillors, one of whom I feel gets it and the other… well.

Firstly, Paul Scully mentions his blog and his twittering, and points out that while this does not replace face to face communication, it offers him a way to communicate with commuters who he might not otherwise get the chance to see, and points out that with a small majority, every vote is crucial.

Now I suspect Paul and me are probably at different ends of the political spectrum on a number of issues, but on this one, I agree with him wholeheartedly. For me, one of the biggest problems facing our democracy is apathy. Voter turnouts are down because voters are increasingly sick of the ‘party machines’ (or at least ’tis my belief). For me, blogs and tweets allow voters to see the human side, to understand a bit more about the candidate they are voting for, rather than just his or her party.

And that has to be a good thing: that particular person is the one you are choosing to represent you, not the party they belong to. It also is a great way of getting a message over to younger voters who are unlikely ever to turn up to a constituency or ward meeting. It encourages engagement.

So, Paul Scully is my Politico WIN.

And with my Politico FAIL then — actually preceeding Paul’s comment — we have a message from Councillor Henry Lamprecht, of Enfield Council. Henry is again a conservative councillor, but with a somewhat different viewpoint

What on earth has Councillors got to twitter about? What they did at scrutiny panel last night? Cllr Henry Lamprecht

Well, yes, if it affects people in your ward. Why shouldn’t you tell them about it? Don’t you feel they have a right to know? Or do you feel that selecting and disseminating relevant information is somehow beneath you?

In the past these anoraks used to just bore the people around them but now they can bore absolutely anyone in the world. [...] It is like watching a mating ritual of Peacocks the way they display their dazzling qualities to each other. Cllr Henry Lamprecht

Ah, I see. Henry doesn’t like twitter. Or presumably facebook, or blogging, or anything like that, and therefore he is dismissive of anyone who does use it as being an ‘anorak’, and some sort of glorying smug idiot in need of a constant ego massage.. Still, it’s nice to know that Henry is happy to publicly dismiss all Twitter users as anoraks without worrying that it might make people not want to vote for him, isn’t it?

He appears to think that it isn’t his job to tell the residents of his ward what is going on, and all the people in his ward who are into technology are dismissed as anoraks. I’m glad he isn’t representing me, as I’d certainly feel I could do better.

He does however suggest that it is important to speak to people on doorstops etc — which it is, and I’ll concede that point — but seems to miss the point that many people will want to do business with their local council (or councillors) electronically. If I want to contact my councillors, I email ‘em. I don’t see the need for them to turn up at my house, or vice-versa. More and more people feel the same.

It’s about contacting and engaging with people the way they want to be engaged with.

Of course, the funniest bit is then Henry closes his remarks by saying…

Finally, just remember one thing… Every time you twitter, the person that wants your seat from another Party reads it too… Cllr Henry Lamprecht

Indeed. And every time you dismiss twitterers as anoraks publicly, someone can quote you on that and make the information available to others too, Henry. Perhaps you ought to have remembered your own advice…

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4 Comments to Politico WIN and Politico FAIL

  1. Pierce says:

    February 19th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Another side to this is the work that goes on around handling councillor communications. I used to work in the Comms Team at a small rural authority and I’ve seen the amount of toing and froing involved in getting a simple Councillor quote for a press release approved. Imagine if they were Twittering too? With each Tweet going through Comms before publication? It sounds daft I know, but such is the grip some authorities have on the external communications of their councillors, for fear of them saying something wrong.

    The mentality in Comms is still based around the established media – preparing statements for the press, and preparing councillors for TV or radio interviews, well in advance. The same approach cannot work with the immediacy of blogging and tweeting and the like. Both Councillors and their Comms advisors need to adapt and embrace these new (or at least new to them) methods of conencting with people.

  2. JackP says:

    February 19th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    That’s an interesting point Pierce — but I also think that it is this constructed ‘message’ that is part of the problem and is putting people off engaging in politics. We want to know want people actually think, not what they believe is the most politically advantageous thing to say…

    Maybe councillors need to include a disclaimer “this is my opinion and not council policy” just like many bloggers say “these are not the views of my employer”. That way people can still get to know who they are, and what they do, without assuming that ‘because councillor X said it, that must be council policy’?

    Of course, Cllr Lamprecht’s (presumably off-the-cuff) comments, and me taking the piss out of Cllr Lamprecht is hardly likely to make him more keen to blog, which is probably a shame: he’s more than welcome to a right-of-reply if he fancies one… and it’d be nice for him to give the social media a fair crack of the whip and see if it changes his mind (or not!)

  3. Cllr Henry Lamprecht says:

    July 29th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Well, Pickards me old mucker, it would seem that Dave Cameron shares my view… And I never actually said I don’t like Twitter or Facebook, I just don’t bore people with politics on it! Go on, look me up!

  4. JackP says:

    July 29th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    …I was thinking of commenting on Cameron’s stuff anyway, but I’ve not seen the detail of what he said (beyond the shock! horror! man swears! – as if the majority of people never do) so I’ll have to look into that first…

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