Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Election Special

A coloured voting box

Did you vote yesterday ? You’re not alone !

I’ve decided I’m going to try and blog more often. Here’s my starter for 10 …

I’ve wrestled with my conscience about whether to vote in yesterday’s elections for Police Commissioners. It struck me right from the start that these elections would be marked by a mixture of total apathy, and by outright opposition. If I’d been keeping up to my blog I’d have been able to link to a previous post so that I could say “I told you so !”.

Well I didn’t keep up to my blog so I can’t, and I didn’t, but I could have.

It all seemed so obvious to me …

In the first instance,  the public simply don’t have the appetite for more ranks of elected officaldom. (As demonstrated by the widespread rejection of the option of having elected Mayors ). Democracy for the British people it would seem is about electing people with sufficient seniority to appoint other people that they choose on our behalf to do the donkey work for them.

And really, what’s wrong with that ?

I’m actually fine with that state of affairs.

Secondly – if you’re going to politicise any thing, then please do not make it the Police Force – it’s the last thing in the world that most people would want dominated by an elected official.

It feels very wrong in my own opinion – and also feels decidedly un-British. A bit like having a Sheriff in the Wild West.

I’m not actually sure where the idea came from – was it an issue in the general election ? If it was then I missed it. It seems we’ve had this wonderful idea dropped on us from on high – and unlike the idea of AV voting, and elected mayors, this time we weren’t given a choice of whether to accept this innovation to our democratic process – we were merely given the choice of who we wanted to do the job that had been invented.

Well I didn’t want anybody to do the job. OK – I’d prefer a Labour candidate. And I’d prefer any candidate that’s not part of a far right racist group. Really though – I’d prefer it if our time wasn’t wasted on this rubbish.

So what happened at the Ballot Boxes ?

Record low turnouts; very high numbers of spoiled ballots; and a high number of independents elected (it remains to be seen how many of them are well qualified ex-policemen, and how many are dangerous authoritarian nut cases – I’m hoping the former is the case).

We’ve also had the Electoral Commission announcing that it will launch an inquiry into the low turnouts, which they describe as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

So what does David “I’m in touch” Cameron have to say ?

David Cameron speaking after the election : “It takes time to explain a new post”

Well according to the BBC David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected. (which begs the question of why he didn’t address that before polling day). When told that ‘Numerous areas have confirmed turnouts ranging from 13-20%.’ – he said

“It takes time to explain a new post,” and he predicted voting numbers would be “much higher next time round”

What was that Prime Minister ? Next time ? Next time ? – are you having us on ?

I’m sorry Mr Cameron but you’ll have to do better than that.

Cast your minds back about a year – when various unions took ballots regarding strike action to protest against Government plans for public sector pensions.

A well reported one was this : Unison members vote for pension strike  which Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude responded to by calling on Unison members not to go ahead with a strike.

“Today’s Unison ballot received a very low turnout – with less than a third of their members even voting – which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want,”

So what he was saying was that despite the technical legitimacy of the mandate for strike action by Unison, they should not take the action because there was no ‘popular’ mandate – no ‘moral’ mandate if you prefer.

This on a vote of members who’d chosen to join the union, members who would not be bound by the result of the ballot; and who voted 78% to 22% in favour on a 29% turnout.

This equates to around 22.5% of the total eligible to vote. Admittedly it’s hardly overwhelming.

It stacks up well though compared to the Conservatives’ share of total possible votes in the 2010 general election – 26% – slightly more than 1 in 4 of the electorate.

And it looks very much like a landslide in comparison with the victory for new Conservative PCC  Matthew Ellis in Staffordshire. Mr Ellis described his share of the vote as “a decent mandate” – yet on the meagre 11.63% turnout his share of the vote amounted to just 6% of the electorate.

Rt Hon David Cameron, MP, Conservative Party l...

“You’ve all done very, very well !”

Mr Cameron when 6% is a decent mandate, then we have a problem. The process of appointing these commissioners needs, at the very least, to be suspended pending further parliamentary debate. While no one seriously questions the technical legitimacy of these elections, it’s clear that there is very little support for the new proposed Police Commissioners- how ill any one gain by imposing this measure on the public ?

Elsewhere all the elections went pretty much as expected. Two Labour holds in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth; from which precious little can be learned especially on the very low turnouts.

The turnout was more respectable in Corby where Labour’s Andy Sawford won with a large swing to Labour following semi-celeb Louise Mensch’s resignation recently.

It’s difficult to really divine what this means in national terms – it’s by no means an absolute death sentence for the Government – but it’s also still a pretty positive and healthy result for Labour.

What really struck me about the Corby by-election though was Louise Mensch staying

Louise Mensch MP, Corby and East Northamptonshire

Louise Mensch – It’s all about me ! (Photo credit: Stop Climate Chaos Coalition)

true to her media image by singularly failing to keep her gob shut.

Having ousted a Labour MP incumbent since 1997 at the 2010 general election, Louise handed a hard earned Conservative seat straight back to the opposition half way through the parliament. Perhaps she’d have thought today was a day to merely congratulate the victor, and offer some apology to the defeated Tory candidate.

Here’s what she said  :

Election result will not be a verdict on either Christine, or the Conservatives, but only on the decision I took to step down mid-term

Well get you Menschy !

Who the hell does she think she is ? Obviously she thinks she’s so important that the people of Corby will vote on no other issue other than her resignation – they won’t be bothered by the omnishambles of a Government, they won’t bother looking at what any of the candidates have to say – for any of the parties. No they’ll just be so furious at the loss of their darling Louise that they’ll take it out on her old party.

And with these words Louise once again illustrates that character trait running right through the Tory Party – the characteristically self-centred sense of superiority and elevated status which they feel is their entitlement. Perhaps if Louise had campaigned with Christine in Corby and told the pleb electorate to know their place and vote for who she told them to, then they might have won.

Finally we had the news of John Prescott failing in his bid to be elected as a Police Commissioner in Humberside. Conservative MP Robert Halfon exhorted to Twitter :

At least John Prescott didn’t get elected as Police Commissioner -#notalltoday’sTorynewsisbad

And yet even in this hashtag he is at least partially mistaken.

John Prescott’s defeat, was not achieved through the First Past the Post system. It was achieved through the AV system – that system that the country voted so overwhelmingly to reject, and which most of the Tory Party (including Robert Halfon) campaigned vigorously against – rejecting it as undemocratic.

English: John Prescott, British Labour politic...

A not so recent picture of John Prescott looking grumpy. The ones today were pretty much the same

On a first past the post vote, John Prescott would have been elected.

On a count of first preferences, winning candidate Matthew Grove’s 29,440 votes account for just 4% of the total electorate

Yet the Tories seem to be dancing in the street.

Do they even know what democracy means ?

Omnishambles !

Omnishambles !

Omnishambles

November 16, 2012 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Base, common & popular

Tony Blair & Margaret Thatcher - Royal London ...

Blair & Thatcher visit the wax works - Image by Alanna@VanIsle via Flickr

There have been a flurry of rumours on Twitter and on the internet more generally that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died, or is about to.

All so far have proved to be false, but have already shown that there are many – particularly within the Labour fold, that will almost literally dance for joy when she finally does pop her clogs.

I’ve despised her for many years. I won’t be dancing on her grave though – displays of joy at the demise of other human beings only serve to upset people further, and such displays will only weaken the public opinion of Labour.

Many on the left see Margaret Thatcher as possibly the most despised figure in politics in recent memory. She’s certainly the one I despise the most.

We should beware of deluding ourselves though. The real reason why so many people dislike her, is actually because so many more people thought that she was the best thing since sliced bread.

It’s also common place amongst certain Labour supporters to decry Tony Blair as some kind of demon as well.

Perhaps some people think he is. Most do not.

You’ll often hear people say that “Everybody hates Manchester United”

Why ? It’s because they’ve been the most consistently well supported, and most successful club of recent years. It’s because they’re so popular with so many, that they are so unpopular with a few. (And I’m certainly no Manchester United supporter)

The most popular, and the most significant post-war  Prime Ministers have without a doubt been Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Whether you like them or not, it is an inescapable truth that there are many millions who did – and probably still do.

So I’m just saying !

May 9, 2011 Posted by | blogs, idle banter, politics, twitter | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Politics & the blogosphere – is it still about interaction ?

Richard Cobden

One of Steve Baker's heroes Richard Cobden - famous for having a pub in Camden named after him - and outside which one of the Gallagher brothers was photographed on Google Earth

It took a good while for me, and I guess many more people, to understand the power of the so called Web 2.0 phenomenon – which basically revolves around the notion that the internet is not a a broadcast medium – it is a medium which thrives and develops on the interactions of its users.

The potential of this idea for changing the way we think, and relate to each other is perhaps most apparent in the political ‘blogosphere’ and it’s attending social media platforms – such as for instance Facebook & Twitter.

I’ve found it a revelation that it’s possible to connect with politicians – who once seemed remote and unassailable – but are now ready to respond to questions, visit your blog, and publish and perhaps reply to your comments on their own sites. It can also lead to “real life” activity – In the past two years I’ve joined the Labour Party, visited Downing Street, met cabinet ministers, and conversed face to face with Members of Parliament. Without the interaction of the on-line communities none of this would ever have happened (a cautionary tale for some I guess !)

Some of this comes at a price though. Personally I’ve taken a decision not to pursue a mass readership for this blog – it ticks over nicely and has had 10,000 or so visitors – but if I were to receive that many every day – as some quite modest blogs do, I’d have great difficulty fitting in the management of comments, and the writing of posts with any kind of a real-life lifestyle. Imagine then how it must be for a Member of Parliament – the interest must be phenomal, and so also must be the risk of publishing something that will be picked up by the main-stream media, and used to make political mileage against you.

Certainly there are well publicised faux pas arising from Twitter – whether they be about skateboarding elderly ex-prime ministers, ill considered jibes against opponents, or hasty comments regarding ballot counts.

I’d suggest thought that although the greater scrutiny which the new media brings is difficult to negotiate, it is nevertheless a worthwhile activity for politicians – as it not only shows them to be open to communication with the electorate, but also to be confident in their convictions – and unafraid of speaking their minds.

Which is why I’m concerned that a number of politicians seem to be shutting down the channels of communication. It’s been well publicised for instance that Nadine Dorries MP has closed down her Twitter account (on which she was famous for blocking anyone who tried to respond to her), and has opened a new blog on which she opines freely – sometimes about individuals  – but leaves no method of replying. Comments are switched off, and the email address on the page, results in a message  (so I’m told – I’ve never tried it myself) which explains that Nadine may take several weeks to respond, and that she only replies to constituents. (Can anyone confirm this ?).

But I’m not going to dwell on Nadine Dorries – Although I do find her a little quirky I think her offensiveness has been highly exaggerated – Suffice to say that I feel it’s sad that she’s choosing not to interact with the rest of us mere mortals – in favour of  turning her on-line presence into a one way channel.

Another blog site I’ve viewed a reasonable amount over the past couple of years belongs to one Steve Baker – the Member of Parliament for Wycombe. I find his blog interesting because Steve’s not like most other Tories. Most Tories in my opinion base their political beliefs on very little other than a desire to get ahead, there are no principles in their politics. Steve Baker on the other hand has principles to spare – he’s evangelic about many aspects of politics – he waxes lyrical about the “Austrian School” of economics, and his beloved Cobden Centre. He’s clearly an independent thinker as his somewhat unorthodox statement on Hunting with Hounds shows Hunting with hounds | Steve Baker MP – ( and remember he’s representing a constituency in the heart of Fox Hunting country ).  So he’s very principled – I just tend to disagree vehemently with almost all of the principles he holds.

Give him his due though he’s responded to my comments, and engaged – and of course I haven’t been particularly complimentary – but he gives as good as he gets, and I even bought a book on his recommendation after reading this article - Clear thinking | Steve Baker MP ( Book available from Amazon here : Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking: Amazon.co.uk: Jamie Whyte: Books – I can also recommend it).

I don’t read his blog often but I do keep coming back to it periodically – but when I tried to leave a comment recently it appeared that the site had forgotten my password. After a bit of messing on with reminders and stuff I realised it had also forgotten my user name and email address. No problem – register again – except that “User registration is currently not allowed”. With a bit more scouting around it would appear that all of my previous comments (there aren’t that many actually) – and Steve’s replies to them, have been removed – in fact I couldn’t find any comments at all.

Of course Steve is still on twitter @sjbaker but if you read the contact information on his web-site :Contact me | Steve Baker MP it’s clear that  he will not answer any comments

“Follow me on Twitter (please note that I do not reply on Twitter)”

In fact there’s very little way of contacting him directly other than by post – and the form on the website is for users with a Wycombe post code only.

Of course he has – like every other MP, or for that matter every other member of the public – every right not to respond, and not to interact.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if they all did though ? Wouldn’t give them all so much more credibility – even if they used staff members to give them a hand ?

The posts on Steve’s blog I’ve looked at over the last couple of days have been his “quotes of the day”, and I found a particular irony in this one :

“Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less” (attributed to Richard Cobden).

Quite ! Being a member of parliament doesn’t stop you being one of the people Steve – in fact I’d say it magnifies the fact that you are exactly that.

So if you do read this – please leave a comment and let us know if you’re going to interact with us again, and whether you’ll encourage other politicians to do the same ?

Stop Press – :

I’ve just discovered that the aforementioned Nadine Dorries MP has re-launched her Twitter account, which can be found here @Nadine_MP – so a special follow friday #ff for her.  I’m following her – I hope she doesn’t block me !

UPDATE ( 2.00 PM Saturday 16th October)

Steve Baker MP has read this blog, and responded via direct message on Twitter to inform me that there is a technical issue with his website which is preventing people leaving comments, which he is looking into. He tells me that the only problem he has is lack of time and that he prioritises his constituents. Which is a reasonable enough response – Thank you Steve. He’s also clearly reading his Twitter messages – and despite what his blog says he does reply. Keep interacting Steve !

What we need now is a comment from Nadine Dorries ! – Are you out there Nadine ?

UPDATE ( 3.00 – Saturday 16th October )

Following the response above Steve Baker has posted on his blog to clarify his comments policy and explain how his recent purging of spam registrations has caused a few problems, I’ve since commented on his blog and have received a response Comments and contact – constituents first | Steve Baker MP

Never let it be said that Northernheckler doesn’t give credit where it’s due, and nor do I restrict my praise to non-Tories. Thank you Steve Baker – the blogosphere doesn’t get much more interactive than that, it’s much appreciated. Now if you could have a word with Nadine … !

October 15, 2010 Posted by | blogs, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter Problem with E-Cademy Website

A quick blog to alert people to an issue I’ve had with the E-Cadamy  website

I received an invite to this site from a Twitter-friend yesterday and decided to give it a go – I signed up (or thought I did) and as is the case with a number of social networking websites, it prompted me to send invites for people I wanted to connect with – and could do this via Twitter.

Without thinking I quickly did this. Shortly afterwards realising that my “DM” was clogged up with messages from me – all of the invites had gone out via direct message. What I didn’t realise is that there’s a 200 message per day limit on Direct Messages – and as of this moment I can’t send any at all – until tomorrow no doubt. I suspect though that it might take a while longer – I deleted several dozen of the messages sent on my behalf by the site earlier today (all the ones I could find) only to find them replaced by several dozen more. It looks as if they’ve been sent in alphabetical order – and I’m only up to ‘G’ – so bearing in mind I have around 450 followers, it looks like it could be a few days before I can send any more DM’s

It also appeared to clog up the rest of my twitter feed for a while – with some messages not getting through, and others being delayed (presumably because of API limits) – all back to normal now.

The irony is I never even got to the point where I found out what the E-Cademy website offers – and guess what ? I’m not going to bother. Nor am I going to link back to them.

Hope that explains some of my odd tweeting this afternoon, and that not too many people have responded to my invitations (if you haven’t – don’t ! – and if you have – Sorry !”

February 18, 2010 Posted by | twitter | , | 1 Comment

Yes, Dave IS losing it !

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s so called ‘withering’ attack (perhaps withered might be more apt) on Gordon Brown over MPs’ expenses (see my post yesterday : Cameron is losing it ) today the top Tory launches a poster campaign (OK these days poster campaigns tend to just get wheeled round on the side of a lorry for a while – but they get a lot of press coverage).

Just feast your eyes on this :

tory death tax poster

The Tories latest election poster

It’s difficult to count all the ways in which this so spectacularly fails to hit home. Let me try though :

1. Health Secretary Andy Burnham has categorically denied any plan to introduce such a tax :

“The Guardian’s story suggests a £20,000 flat levy and I am not currently considering that as a lead option for reform,” he said.

“That figure was used in the green paper last year, but I do not believe a flat levy of that kind would be the right way to go. So I can say to you very categorically today that is not what we are considering.”

(Source : Brown’s ‘death tax’ denied )

2. He denied it after the Guardian article which he refers to (Inheritance levy to fund social care being considered by ministers) but before the poster was unveiled – The Tories knew it was a lie before it even hit the streets –  so they’ll be accused of lying, and also not knowing what the Government’s plans are.

3. The Conservatives are in no position to draw attention to plans on inheritance tax. My post in November Just who would benefit from Cameron’s Tax cuts ? drew attention to Labour’s position re. the Conservatives’ plans pointing out that only those with estates of more than £700,000 would benefit from those plans.

4. Not only does drawing attention to Inheritance Tax reveal the unfairness of their own plans, it also reminds the public of one of David Cameron’s more spectacular trashings in PMQ’s by Gordon Brown – when GB came out with the taunt that

‘Cameron and Osborne “will know by name” almost all of the people who will benefit from these measures – and adding  “Is this what the Conservatives mean when they say ‘we’re all in this together?’

5. The poster comes on the back of the Tories’ previous disastrous own goal poster which showed an airbrushed David Cameron, and launched a whole cottage industry of edited versions of the poster – it’s hardly likely to suffer a better fate – replacing as it does, the smooth forehead of David Cameron with the smooth stone slab of a grave stone. Will it be a good swap we wonder ? – I’d imagine there’ll be alternative versions of this on the net before midnight – perhaps here : http://www.mydavidcameron.com/ . Expect Zombies !

6. The phrase “death tax” is lifted straight out of the vocabulary of right wing American politicians – and specifically conjures up the ‘Death Panels’ talked of by right wing American politician  Sarah Palin – a figure of ridicule in the UK. The expression was used in attacks on President Barack Obama’s plans to introduce universal health care in the USA, and alongside criticism of the UK’s National Health Service  – this serves to remind the UK public, not just of the opposition by some Tories to the very idea of the NHS – but specifically of the maverick extremist Daniel Hannan, who claimed that the NHS was a “60 Year Mistake” on American TV , who stands by his pronouncements, and who has not been reprimanded in any way by David Cameron, despite his claims to support the NHS. ( See my post Daniel Hannan’s outpourings on the NHS – Will Cameron slap him down ? ) – raising fears of both the Tories’ lack of commitment to the NHS, and David Cameron’s inability to control the lunatic fringe (or is it the mainstream ?) of his party.

The whole Daniel Hannan episode of course sparked the massive #WeLoveTheNHS Twitter campaign, massively embarassing for the Conservatives, and which perhaps can be seen as a turning point in the fortunes of Gordon Brown’s government.

7. And finally … It’s just not all that funny. Surely they can do better than this.

So once again I say that David Cameron is losing it – losing the plot, losing the argument – and increasingly he’s losing the election campaign.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

It’s not about the numbers !

UPDATE : A lot of responses to the list published by Iain Dale since I did this. Not least the one at Political Scrapbook which takes a different way of assessing the ‘top’ twitterers (I prefer ‘tweeters’ by the way) – which is to use Tweetlevel which is a service which works out a score based on followers, RT’s, replies – etc, etc.

Clearly a little more sensible than Iain Dale’s approach, but what @PSbook didn’t fully take into account was who was Labour and who wasn’t – and so rapidly updated the chart when Tweeters like myself sent their scores in.

According to the list I’m now 13th = (in actuality 23rd) – ahead of notable Labour tweeters, Like Will Straw, Sunder Katwala, Sally Bercow, Sion Simon – to name but a few.

Well – it’s flattering – but it’s not true ! – and I think underlines the pointlessness of Twitter “charts” – but thanks anyway !

I read on the celebrated tory Iain Dale’s Diary blog this morning, his list of the Top 20 Conservative and Labour tweeters, (with a link to the Lib Dems’ top 20 – mustn’t give them a place on the top table now must we ?)

Now Iain of all people surely knows his way around the internet / blogosphere / twittersphere – call it what you will – so why is he with bothering with such a silly list ?

To put tweeters in rank order, based on number of followers seems to totally miss the point of the interactivity of both Twitter and blogging.

The influence that a particular tweeter – or even an individual tweet – exerts on the masses is related to how many people follow them – but is not wholly dependent on it.  Neither do most “grass roots” Labour tweeters – and to be honest Tory, Lib Dem, & whoever else – really give a monkey’s about who has the most followers – the influence which Twitter wields is in the mass interaction – the Re-Tweets, the replies – the sense of community, and the propagation of ideas quickly among large numbers of people. It’s about bringing to attention the small individual blogs, on a par with the large institutional blogs on an equal footing – it’s just not about numbers. The total is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

Iain has for example clearly missed out one important parliamentary tweeter with over 40,000 followers – which would make them the third “top” political tweeter after Sarah Brown and Boris Johnson – but in my ever so humble (I only have 400 followers) opinion, not especially relevant in terms of influence (although I’m open to persuasion).

Iain in the same article also opines that Labour’s Twitter presence is more ‘party machine’ than ‘grass roots’ activists, in comparison with the Tories, by virtue of the fact that Twelve out of the Top 20 Labour tweeters are in the party machine, compared with 11 Tories.”

Yes.  Right. Well that’s the whole point – that’s how they are connecting with the grass roots.

Some people just don’t get Twitter !

January 26, 2010 Posted by | blogs, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

He’s a fighter not on Twitter !

Yesterday I attended the Fabians’ New Year Conference at Imperial College London. Pretty good stuff it was too, with an opening key note speech, screened live on both BBC and Sky News, by none other than the man himself Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Although sitting in the third row whilst Gordon effectively kicked off Labour’s General Election campaign was a pretty impressive experience for a political geek like me, if I thought that the close encounters with political celebrities were over for the day, I was very wrong.

A few minutes later I was seated in the same auditorium for my choice of the first group sessions of the day – which my followers on Twitter will not be surprised to learn was “Twittered out – will the new media really change the election ?” – a lively debate chaired by Twitter Tsarina & MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy (aka @KerryMP) , and a panel consisting of President of YouGov Peter Kellner, Ellie Gellard – better known as The Stillettoed Socialist or @BevaniteEllie, Nick Anstead of the University of East Anglia – (and co-editor of “The change we need” with Will Straw ), and finally James Forsyth, Deputy Editor of The Spectator‘s online edition.

High spot of the debate itself was when Peter Kellner was giving the predictable whine about how it’s impossible to say anything worth reading in just 140 characters – whilst he was speaking many of the audience were tweeting away, iPhone’s and Blackberries in hand, and received the message “Next to a Twitter hater on platform #fab10″ from @BevaniteEllie seated a couple of feet to his right. She smiled knowingly to the audience, and the audience tweeted back. There are those who know and there are non-Twitterers !

Which brings me to the point of this blog. As James Forsyth was winding up (and I’m sorry James but you were anything but riveting) my attention wandered to a small group of people who’d just come in to the auditorium and sat down just in front of me.

The Man in front is afighter not a quitter

The view from my seat

I did a double take, and realised that one of them was none other than the Dark Lord himself, Peter Mandelson.  Kerry McCarthy had clearly noticed as well and attempted to engage him in the debate, pointing out to him that one of the most common questions she is asked by twitter users is “Can I follow Peter Mandelson ? – Is he on Twitter ?” Well I think this was one of those rare occasions where Lord Mandelson couldn’t really decide what to say next – yes I was surprised as well ! (@KerryMP: tells us  “I asked Peter Mandelson at #fab10 if he’d start tweeting. He said “they” aka “the dark side” won’t let him!”)

So we reached the end of the session – which was followed by Peter’s session with the Young Fabians – people got up to leave, lots of people started arriving. I made a move towards the other side of the auditorium to ensure a good view of events on stage.

In doing so I came across a man blocking the way -

” Excuse me !” I interjected politely

- he moved to let me past just as politely – and I realised that it was Lord Mandelson once again.

Well I wasn’t going to be denied this time – “Pleased to meet you !” I said, offering my hand, which he shook with political aplomb.

I introduced myself, told him that my on line persona was “Northern Heckler”, and then … well didn’t know what to say really !

So I said – “I think I follow you on Twitter !” (I thought I did !)

“You don’t follow me, I’m afraid” he said.

“Someone who pretends he’s you ?”

- “I’m afraid so”

- “Well I’ll look forward to when I do follow you,” I said, ” nice to meet you !”

- and with a  smile he trotted on to the stage and addressed around 600 Young Fabians – not failing to point out from the platform that some of them (like me) – were perhaps not all that young !

So – I think the time has come to launch the campaign – Lord Peter Mandelson needs to be on Twitter. We need him – He needs us. Twitter is full of people who, unlike the general public, actually find politics interesting. Peter Mandelson is one of those people who actually makes politics interesting for the rest of the population as well. So if he becomes a Tweeter, he’ll square the circle as it were.

Plus it would be lot’s of fun.

Mandelson’s one of the few genuine stars of British politics – some people love him  – some people hate him, others merely throw custard at him – but it would take a very disaffected voter to hand on heart say that they were bored by him.

So my message to Peter – “Come on Lord Mandelson – there’s a tweeting mob out there who need some soundbites throwing at them (just ask Guido Fawkes !) – Your public need you !”

To all the people out there on Twitter, I say – Let the world know we want #Mandy4Twitter – doesn’t matter which party you support (if any), like him or loathe him, – you know you’ll follow him – tweet it, & re-tweet it : #Mandy4Twitter !

January 17, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, politics, twitter | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy Christmas tweeps and blogsters

I’d like to wish every one who’s taken the time to visit my blog, or talk to me via Twitter in the past year a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

12 months ago I had a Facebook account (fairly active), a Twitter account (one follower, who I also followed – but more usually we’d text each other), I even had a blog – not this one – and no one read it.

Somewhere around February things went a bit bonkers, and I’m now a confirmed blogger – I don’t have millions of viewers – I’m just coming to 2,000 visits, but I can count at least 2 Government ministers amongst them, and 4 MP’s to my certain knowledge, but actually the best bit is that I enjoy it.

Along the way I’ve had the odd hairy moment – notably publishing under my real name on a particularly turbulent weekend for Labour on a very prominent site, and which prompted the birth of Nils – my alter ego.

Mostly it’s been lots of fun though – having postings published on LabourList, Left Foot Forward, and the Progress web site, and making lots of Twitter friends – sometimes engaging in earnest political debate – but mostly just idle banter.

I’ve also joined the Labour Party – encouraged a couple of others to join, and – the icing on the cake – visited 10 Downing street earlier this month for the Downing Tweet Christmas party – courtesy of Sarah Brown, and Kerry McCarthy MP who put my name forward.

So it’s been a good year for me Tweetwise and Blogwise – Hope it’s been as good for all of you – and I hope next year brings us what we all want !

Season’s Greetings as they say in the Conservative Party, but not in the Daily Mail !

December 24, 2009 Posted by | blogs, politics, twitter | , , , | 1 Comment

Are the media getting Twitchy ?

Just a quick one -

Saw this “Have your say – Does Twitter Matter ?” on the BBC site yesterday (arising out of Stephen’s Fry’s dither about whether to stay with Twitter or not) – most comments predictably saying how much they detest Twitter and how they’re not interested in whether we’ve just made a cup of tea or not (see my earlier blog – They just don’t get Twitter do they ?).

Also saw this today on the Guardian/Observer ‘s ‘Comment is Free’ website, from Nick Cohen Beware the instant online anger of the HobNob mob – which is a rather more longwinded and round-a-bout swipe at Twitter.

I can’t help but think that some people in the “traditional” news media are getting a wee bit scared that Twitter (and of course other new media) might actually be challenging their supremacy, and control of the news.

Or should I say – they’re getting “Twitchy ” ?

November 1, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , | 2 Comments

They just don’t get Twitter do they ?

(NB – I’ve shifted the situation around slightly here to protect the identities of the people involved)

Some people just don’t understand Twitter. Hardly a week goes by without some MP having a swipe at Twitter and its users. The usual lines are “I don’t want to know when some total stranger has a cup of tea” ( which usually prompts Twitterers to let the world have a picture of their Marmite on toast – Twitter humour’s like that ! )

Or we get – “you can’t possibly say anything sensible in 140 characters” , which is not only untrue but misses one of the main purposes of Twitter – that of publicising blogs – where you can use as many characters as you like

Twitterers love this though, because we understand that Twitter offers such a powerful means of mass communication in ways that have never been available before. The Jan Moir episode last week was a prime example of this – Ms Moir’s comment about there being “a highly orchestrated campaign” particularly highlighting her misunderstanding – the whole point of the response was that it was entirely spontaneous – there was no orchestration.

Few twitter users would claim it was perfect though and many look forward to new and even more powerful communication tools arising out of it. We don’t also often publicise the down side – like the tendency to spread the news of celebrity deaths around the globe in seconds – when they’re still alive, or the preponderance of automated spam bots, or Britneys as they are sometimes called  (if you don’t know already, you don’t want to)

The “Twitter Conversation” also tends be one that many of us have at work – where people tend to trot out the same type of stuff. Just yesterday I was in a meeting with a number of professionals from external agencies. During a break we managed to get on to talking about twitter.  Amongst the usual comments that were trotted out :

“What a waste of time – they should get a life”

“What could I possibly want to know that only takes up 140 characters”  – (he said 130 actually but I wouldn’t want him to appear ignorant.

“It’s just like CB radio : ‘Hello where are you ? ‘I’m here in the kitchen – where are you ?’ ‘ I’m in the living room’   “

So I countered with :

“Well how else would I get the secretary of state to read my blog ?”

A short pause.

“Well not of all of us have ego’s so big that we’d want him to”

(Hmm maybe not. I’m pretty sure my colleague has though.)

“Any way you don’t think he sends the tweets himself do you ?”

Er, yes he does actually.

Any way faced with not winning the argument, and nearing the end of the break, my colleague gave his argument ending coup de grace :

“There is absolutely nothing that could possibly be of interest or use to me that I could possibly gain from Twitter !”

Punkt. Schluss !

Except that some people he used to work with are a little more fond of twitter.  And I know what he was doing last weekend, and who he was with. I also have a reasonable thumbnail of his CV and an idea of how I can expect him to work. All through twitter.

I let it pass. For he does make exceedingly good cakes !

October 22, 2009 Posted by | blogs, idle banter, twitter | , | 1 Comment

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