A significant number of my colleagues presume I am mad for having a second job as a Councillor. This number has grown significantly since I announced a third job – that of prospective parliamentary candidate. By 7th May, I may well have joined them in that opinion.
There are days, greater in number and closer together at the moment, when I wish I could just crumple into the sofa and watch Eastenders of an evening. Sadly though, there’s canvassing to be done, and my group leader won’t let me rest until I have single-handedly accomplished Nick Clegg’s Million Door Challenge. I am truly worried when I find it difficult to get to sleep without the rhythmic pounding of the leaflet folding machine to comfort me. I went to give blood the other day and they turned me away because it was 20% Focus ink.
Amongst all the contact with voters I am currently enjoying, I was reminded the other day that unfortunately not all political parties are as up for keeping in touch with voters as I know that we Lib Dems are. I thought it would be an idea to belatedly join the Twitter revolution and start commentating on Council meetings in my home borough. It made me feel less guilty for being sat in them in the first place rather than out knocking on doors or delivering leaflets. Sadly, my attempts at dragging the Council kicking and screaming towards the age of instant communications was met with stern disapproval, and my activities were promptly banned by the ruling Conservatives. If only I’d taken up fox hunting, they’d have been all in favour…
I don’t know if their response to my Twittering was because my tweets weren’t entirely complimentary to them and their non-dom-funded, tax-grabbing, service-cutting ways, or just because I thought of it before any of them did. But whatever the reason, they have made a mistake, in my view.
In the wake of the expenses scandal, this election sees voters and vote-seekers further apart and more out of touch than ever before. Twitter is a way to address that. It isn’t a panacea – in fact I think it’s a poor man’s Facebook and isn’t a patch on a blog. But it’s the only thing that gives real-time commentary on political events, and tweets are short and memorable enough to really hit home. Nobody will win an election using Twitter, but banning it made the Conservatives in Bury look childish and backward. Being the victim of that ban made me look modern and forward-thinking, and it got me into the papers! It was ironic that I got far more publicity through them banning my tweets than I got from the tweets themselves, despite the aim of tweeting being to get publicity!
All it takes is a few seconds to send a tweet, which is about as much spare time as most Councillor-PPCs have, especially if they’ve got jobs to boot. So here’s an idea – set up an account on Twitter and publicise it. Tweet from as many places as you can, get in the faces of the opposition as much as you can by doing it, and tell everyone about it. Don’t tweet anything silly, but add it to your arsenal of communications and see what happens. You never know your luck – they might ban you, and when the papers pick up on it the publicity means you get more time to go out and meet local people. Which, let’s face it, is a much better use of everyone’s time!