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Twitter in Parliament Dec 21

It is not my intention that this becomes a blog about Twitter so I’ll let this be my third and final post on the subject for the time being (the next will be a small rant on a different subject).

But I wanted to draw attention to Twitter’s appearances in Parliament on Thursday, and in particular Jo Swinson’s contribution to the Christmas adjournment debate. As well as being the youngest MP, Jo is one of Parliament’s few twitterers, as she mentions:

I want to talk about the possibility of speeding up Parliament’s entry into the 21st century. I know that the Deputy Leader of the House has taken an interest in online matters. Indeed, I remember that, before his promotion to the Government, he was often seen asking questions in business questions to the Leader of the House about whether we should have more e-tabling of signatures for early-day motions and such like. More and more MPs are now using the internet to connect better with their constituents, and Parliament should also embrace this new technology, whether through social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, or through interactive forums, encouraging comments on websites, podcasts, video logs—known as v-logs, they are small videos that can be uploaded to sites such as YouTube—or, indeed, a new website launched today called It aggregates all the mini-blogs or “twitters” of those MPs who twitter regularly. I declare an interest, as one of the five MPs identified as those who use this service. The others are the hon. Members for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson) and for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), and my hon. Friend Lynne Featherstone. This is an example of a way of connecting more immediately with our constituents, and I would encourage other hon. Members to make full use of the advantages that the internet offers, particularly in relation to the younger audience, who would not normally declare a huge interest in politics.

Jo went on to mention two other important issues of parliamentary accessibility: the rules which keep footage of Parliament off YouTube and mySociety’s Free Our Bills campaign, which I have plugged before.

Thanks to mySociety, you can watch Jo’s speech in full right here:

In tracking down Jo’s speech on TheyWorkForYou, I stumbled across two further mentions of Twitter. Thursday in the House of Lords saw Lord Norton’s debate about Parliament’s communication with the public. The first mention of Twitter came from crossbencher the Earl of Erroll, who also mentioned YouTube:

An interesting development is putting stuff about the Lords on YouTube. I was interested to see how we are rated. About 10,000 people have looked at the piece by the Lord Speaker, which is interesting and informative; about 12,000 people have looked at the Youth Parliament which took over the Chamber last summer; but 47,000 people looked at a pop group called the House of Lords, which was next on the list. That tells me that people are attracted by entertainment. If we are to try to get our message across, we shall have to make it quite entertaining and short, sharp and snappy so that people become aware of it.
The Lords of the Blog come along with more serious pieces. I have looked at that and it is heavier stuff to go through, but it is good. We need some short, sharp things. I think Twitter used very short sentences to track the State Opening of Parliament; for example, “The Queen has just entered the House” and so on. I do not know how many people showed interest in that, but all those little things build up more interest and then some people dig deeper. That is important.

The final word, though, to the second mention of Twitter, from the Lord Greaves:

A lot of noble Lords have talked about modern communication. I very much applaud the Lords of the Blog, the most interesting being the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and my noble friend Lord Tyler, but that is because I am interested in the same sort of things, which is why I am taking part in this debate. I do not go on Facebook or YouTube and I hope that I will never need to. I know that Twitter exists, but that can stay where it is. However, I applaud noble Lords who get involved in such things.

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