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.
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 !