An article in The Scotsman today warns that the EU is ‘losing touch with its citizens,’ which is rather inexcusable in light of social media tools available today. In other news, MP Sadiq Khan tweeted his promotion to Minister of State for Transport last Thursday, and has since received press coverage for his novel announcement. Glancing at Tweetminster, a fantastic site dedicated to British politicians’ use of Twitter, it appears 57 MPs in the UK are current tweeters. So, what does this mean for politics? I’ll outline the impacts as I see them.
Transparency: Lets politicians share with us directly what’s going on and what they think. ie. @patrickharvie ‘Against unprecedented competition, the “He Just Doesn’t Get It” award for 2009 goes to Speaker Martin’
Engagement: Enables people to easily follow politicians or issues, directly respond back, and engage in conversation with others
Without media spin: Politicians no longer reliant on PR to get the story out, and we can hear straight from the horse’s mouth
Instant: No need to wait for official news release. ie. @SadiqKhan: ‘I have had a call from the Prime Minister…’ and ‘…I have been asked to be Minister of State for Transport and a Privy Councillor attending Cabinet on transport issues.’
Inside scoop: What it feels like to be on the inside, real coverage that’s not necessarily media-worthy but still interesting (ie. what topics were discussed at social dinner with the Prime Minister).
Accountability: You can’t delete a tweet, so say what you mean and mean what you say.
Security: It is incredibly easy to blast confidential information in seconds, so politicians need to be sensible about what they reveal and how early they do so.
Manners: With many political leaders still abstaining, tweeting during political events is not as acceptable as it may be at a tech conference or meetup. MSP Patrick Harvie learned this the hard way in April when even an ‘etiquette guru’ attacked him for rudely tweeting from his Blackberry while at the dinner table (with Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond).
So, all things considered, are politicians and Twitter good bedfellows? Based on the open channels of communication Twitter offers constituents and politicians, as well as the immediacy with which news can be released straight from its sources, I’d say absolutely yes! What do you think?