David Cameron’s now infamous remarks about not wanting to Twitter in case it made him look like a **** now look even more dated than they did at the time. Labour has tried to steal a march on the Conservatives by appointing a ‘Twitter Tsar’; Kerry McCarthy MP who was more than a little flabbergasted when she returned to Twitter only to find that the news had been leaked by The Guardian before it’s embargoed date. In comments reported in the Mirror, McCarthy says that all Labour PPC’s should be able to Tweet:
“Voters will increasingly be searching the web to find out what we think about the issues, what we’ve actually been doing in the locality and looking to see what we sound like,” she said.
“That’s where YouTube comes in. All our candidates need to start building up that online collateral from now.”
One wonders if Labour will start putting ‘can you tweet or sum up your resume in 140 characters’ on their PPC application forms. Seriously though you can’t help but feel Labour’s sudden need for a ‘Twitter Tsar’ has grown out of its observations of the #welovetheNHS campaign in particular and hence you can’t help but feel it is slightly opportunistic. In general though I don’t think they are wrong about how useful and effective Twitter can be for campaigning and general news dissimulation; #welovetheNHS did show how something that starts on Twitter can set a national news agenda.
Although several people have commented on Labour’s rather ham-fisted approach to #welovetheNHS which did, as Mike Smithson pointed out, allow Conservatives to portray it as a ‘Con-Lab ding-dong’, that still doesn’t negate the basic point about the effectiveness of social networking politically. Whether McCarthy will be able to change Labour’s rather ‘top-down’ approach to these things remains to be seen; in fact, the very fact of her appointment suggests not. However, things like Twitter are especially important for us as a party since traditional media outlets often provide less than a favourable share of coverage.