Michael Fabricant’s tweets: policy or playground?

Many of my Twitter followers have today seen my passionate side as I exchanged tweets with Michael Fabricant over his use of the social networking site. He’s a little unfortunate in that he’s the only one of Lichfield’s four candidates to be active on Twitter. Labour candidate Steve Hyden is but hasn’t tweeted since February. That gives Mike a boost when it comes to engagement with constituents, which is great, but I have a bee in my bonnett.

Like many voters, I think, I’m fed up of the playground politics that we often see. By that I mean politicians just attacking each other. Providing nothing meaningful in terms of solutions to the problems faced by the country or individuals, or focusing on policy. I believe the primary reason why Nick Clegg performed so well in the first leader’s debate is because he focused far more on re-iterating Liberal policy while Cameron and Brown attacked each other.

The polls were clear; as voters we are tired of playground politics. We don’t want you to be saying “don’t vote for the opposition, they’ll do A, B and C” – we want to hear “vote for us because we’ll do X, Y and Z.” In fact, I kind of don’t mind if candidates attack each other so long as they attack policy and then follow it up by telling us what their own policy is on the same issue.

It’s not hard, we just want to know what candidates stand for and what we can expect from them if they become our MP.

So with those basic principles in mind I decided to do a (very unscientific) sentiment analysis of Fabricant’s tweets since he ceased being an MP and became a candidate.

Of 47 tweets since 12th April I found that while 13 (28%) were positive a slightly higher number, 15 (32%) were negative. The rest (19 – 40%) were neutral.

I’ve copied them all into a spreadsheet which you can all see and scrutinise to your hearts content, and I encourage you to do so.

There was no rigid rule set about what is and isn’t positive or negative and in some cases I’ve even asked for clarification from you as to whether I got it right as well as explaining in some cases why I chose the sentiment I did. I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

What it showed me personally was that, overall, Mike’s tweets ain’t that bad. Some of the negative tweets could have easily become positives if followed up with “…but Conservatives would do X” to show the difference in the main parties and hence the choice we have.

I should also point out that as an MP, Fabricant had some very good moments. Especially (and dear to my heart) the tweeting he did during the passing of the Digital Economy Bill.

So, what do you think?

Update: Michael said to me on Twitter, “Oh get real! Detailed policy in 140 chars? Go to www.conservatives.com for detailed policy.” so it makes sense I give an example of what I would like (not detailed policy!) This tweet attacking Nick Clegg could have been followed up with something like, “Conservative gov’t would introduce Privilege Act to stop that happening. See manifesto p66 http://bit.ly/aR9PfA [pdf]” – that’s 117 characters that says “vote for me and I’ll do something about such abuses.”


11 responses to “Michael Fabricant’s tweets: policy or playground?”

  1. theaardvark Avatar

    I agree. I understand the Michael is a genuinely nice bloke and I have a great deal of respect for him, even if I don’t agree with all of his politics.

    However, the negative tweeting doesn’t do him justice. My pet peeve of the minute is the current reaction to GB’s “bigoted woman” comment.

    Everyone has been very quick to jump on GB without any anaysis of whether the comment was fair or reasonable. And Michael has fallen into this trap, including RTing similar tweets.

    Having said all of that, he’s still a thousand miles ahead of his 2 main rivals. I have no clue who they are beyond their names and the general politics of their parties.

    Michael may not have agreed with something I tweeted today, but at least he replied.

  2. Philip John Avatar

    Agreed. If we’re honest we all know he’ll get re-elected and I quite like that – he’s a good MP, regardless of my views on his party forming the next Government.

    I hope he just takes this as what it is – a hint to be a bit more positive about his tweeting.

  3. Paul Groves Avatar

    I guess some interaction is better than no interaction. I’ve followed Mr Fabricant almost from the day he joined Twitter and I haven’t been followed back.
    Obviously it is entirely up to him who he does and doesn’t follow. But what I find galling is he often interacts more with people outside of his constituency than he does with those who live in it.
    He has a healthy majority and I can’t help feeling he’s a little complacent. He seems happier conversing and campaigning with people who are already supporting him, rather than trying to win over floating voters.
    I’m not a natural Tory voter and probably never will be. But I am enthusiastic about living and working here – the national organisation I work for is based in Lichfield – and I want what is best for the city. If that means Michael Fabricant as MP then fine, but it won’t stop me pulling him up on certain issues and it doesn’t mean I’ll agree with everything he says and does.
    I have local concerns, national concerns, personal concerns and professional concerns and I would expect my local MP, whatever party he/she represents, to at least listen.
    Call my cynical, but Mr Fabricant’s return to Twitter (after he originally abandoned it for Facebook) coincided with publication of Andrew Rawnsley’s book on Gordon Brown and most of his tweets at that time seemed to focus on negative party politics and taking digs at the PM. Its meaningless, its pointless, its a waste of this resource to reach his electorate and keep us informed of his day-to-day work on our behalf. He is a hard-working MP and I would dearly love top know more about what he does for our city and not negative sniping at opposing politicians.
    He has a potentially brilliant, free public platform for this election campaign on Twitter and yet what has come across is that he’s very much “old school” – the politics of the playground seems to be his style at a time when an increasing number of us want to see a more grown up approach.
    I wanted to know why I should vote for Mr Fabricant, not what Mr Fabricant thought of the policies and personalities of opponents – I found his description of a Communist Party supporter who attended the Speakers Corner debate particularly offensive, not least because Mr Fabricant himself had not attended the event.
    All I’ve got from his Twitter account is a steady stream of reasons why I shouldn’t vote for him….and a sense of relief that he doesn’t follow me.

  4. […] about how the politics of playground has characterised the local campaign and Philip John’s excellent analysis of our local Conservative candidate’s use of Twitter in recent weeks sums up why I’m so […]

  5. Julia Higginbottom Avatar
    Julia Higginbottom

    I read Michael Fabricant’s tweet this morning about his alleged interaction and threw up a little in my mouth! I then gave him the benefit of doubt and tried to engage- Alas as yet he has not “interacted” with me, but I’m not a constituent either so I expect nothing but dead air. He has only conformed to my preconceptions about people who follow so few in relation to followers, but believe they are engaging rather than broadcasting. This election campaign has left me disappointed in all the parties use of Social Media tools and I have found no one party leading the way. I suspect we will end up with the politicians we fail to change, no matter who wins. Apologies if this is off the point. I would be more than a little angry to hear my prospective mp professing to interact and then picking to only interact in his own echo chamber anyway. He probably is a good MP but he has struck me overall as a tosser today and I am still throwing up a little in my mouth.

  6. Philip John Avatar

    Julia, thanks for a very on-topic comment. Later on, Mike told me he wouldn’t be reading my tweets again until May 7th. I’m pretty sure it was in jest, and he does still follow me, but I would have rather had some more discussion on the topic and some assurance that he’s worth my vote, rather than the lacklustre answers I did get.

  7. stymaster Avatar

    By that I mean politicians just attacking each other.

    This is what annoys me most about many politicians. The ‘I’m better than him, he smells’ attitude. I’m not a Lichfield constituent, so a discusion about Michael specifically doesn’t affect me, but as a general rule, I’d like politicians to say what they’re going to do for a change.

  8. Freddy Avatar

    Twitter is a very poor platform for talking politics, 140 charcters just doens’t cut it, we’ve got more than enough soundbites passing for political analysis as it is.

    There is no election going on in Lichfield. All the activists living in the constituency whatever party they belong to are more likely to be out canvassing in Burton or Walsall, there’s no benefit to them wasting resources in Lichfield, it isn’ going to change hands. It’s on no ones target list.

    Canvassing itself isn’t about engaging with voters anyway, no one is trying to convince anyone to change their minds, just get their vote out on the day.

    Mickey is far more useful to his cause rt’ing negative comment and encouraging party activists in target seats than he ever would be being positive, engaging or any other worthy activity that’s divorced from the existing political reality.

  9. Paul Groves Avatar

    Freddy: For a skilled and experienced communicator, Twitter should be a great platform to make that initial engagement. I’m not expecting grand policy statements, I want a sensible conversation and that is what Twitter can facilitate.

  10. stymaster Avatar

    Twitter is good as an announcment medium. It’s no good for true communication, because the 140 character limit is, well, limiting, but there’s no reason to not use it to point to a webpage…

  11. Freddy Avatar

    I think you’re both right, Twitter could be used to as you say, point people to a web page or as a starting point for more detailed communication. What is the advantage to Mickey of this though? He is a hard working MP who promotes the area at every oppurtunity but lets face it, he doesn’t have to. He could be anonymous and keep his seat, all he has to do is avoid upsetting the local Conservative association. You live and work in Lichfield but right now, during a general election conversation with you is a waste of time and resources. Not that he’d ever say that of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *