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MPs urged to use Twitter
3:00pm Tuesday 23rd October 2012 in News
MPs need to brush up on their Twitter skills to build stronger connections with their constituents.
That’s according to think tank Parliament Street which has produced a new report urging MPs to use the social media site to break through record levels of voter apathy.
Less than half of Sussex MPs currently have a Twitter account while only four have more than 5,000 followers – a figure the think tank describes as a “dismally low” number of followers.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas leads the way as one of the most followed politicians in the country with more than 47,000 while a trio of current and former Government ministers in Greg Barker, Tim Loughton and Nick Herbert have more than 7,000.
Leading Twitter refuseniks include long-serving MPs Norman Baker, Nicholas Soames and Sir Peter Bottomley although some MPs without Twitter said they did use Facebook regularly.
Horsham MP Francis Maude does not have an official Twitter account but has a fake one set up by pranksters including a joke profile that says “there’s a good reason I look like Emperor Palpatine”.
The think tank report suggests that using Twitter can break down barriers between voters and the Westminster bubble and adjust misconceptions about politicians that seem to inform apathy.
The report said that the best tweeters mix politics and ordinary life with retweets of political news followed by reflections on drinking soft drinks and cooking food.
The most prolific MPs wrote up to 40 tweets in one day alone while the average number of followers for all MPs was 3,936.
Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley said: “I think the better question is not why not have a Twitter account but why have one?
“I don’t see it as an important tool in communicating with constituents, I trust the judgement of the local press about what is news, what is true and what matters.”
Ms Lucas, who now tweets up to three times a day, said: “While Twitter and platforms like it can never be a substitute for actual human contact, I do think they have real value in helping to spread campaigns and demystify the strange world of politics and Westminster.
“Brighton and Hove has been at the forefront of innovation in the digital world, so it’s no surprise that we’re an incredibly well connected city – with people here really embracing Twitter and social media.”
Hove MP Mike Weatherley said: “We should try different approaches when it comes to communicating with constituents."