Councillors! Here’s how not to do Twitter

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Twitter is a great tool for local politicians to use to connect with their electorate.

It’s also a brilliant channel for espousing your views on the stoning of women, as Gareth Compton, a councillor in Birmingham demonstrates:

Twitter fail

The golden rule of Twitter (and indeed life generally), is of course “don’t be a dick”. This is what happens when you ignore that advice.

Update: The Guardian has picked up the story, and Cllr Compton has apologised for what he describes as an “ill-conceived attempt at humour” – and deleted the offending tweet.

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9 Responses to Councillors! Here’s how not to do Twitter

  1. Andrew Fielding says:

    There seems to have been quite a bit of “being a dick” on twitter today amongst councillors @SimonPRenwick is another example – also an aide to an MP (hopefully soon to be ex-aide).

    WHY on earth do they think they can get away with it?

  2. Sarah Arrow says:

    It started with Prescott, and it’s being continued by the likes of Nadine Dorries with her 70% fiction blog.

    You would think someone would actually train these people on how to use the media to their advantage instead of letting them blunder on. I like to think of it as natures way of ‘culling the herd’ of people who would otherwise be deceiving us in a big way.

    • Dave says:

      Yes and no. Do local politicians need support to help them get the most of these tools, of course.

      But was it a lack of understanding of Twitter that got Cllr Compton into trouble here? I don’t think so – the problem here was him, and his appalling sense of humour.

  3. Dave Harte says:

    “Twitter is a great tool for local politicians to use to connect with their electorate” – I rarely see any evidence to confirm this; usually just examples of the opposite. We should stop encouraging them.

    • Dave says:

      Dave, I don’t think that is true at all. Tim Cheetham in Barnsley, James Cousins in Wandsworth and Daisy Benson in Reading are three examples right off the top of my head where local politicians are using Twitter really well, both to the benefit of themselves and their electorates.

      The issue is that people cocking up on the internet is always more widely reported than people doing it well.

      I’d also argue that these tools offer a useful function for transparency. These incidents always betray someone’s lack of judgement, or their appalling views, say. Better to have that out in the open, surely?

      • Dave Harte says:

        I don’t understand the terms of ‘doing it well’. Who’s sense of ‘doing it well’ are we measuring this against. It there some kind of system for measuring effectiveness? Some polls or research available?

        Twitter strikes me as not being about transparency at all. It’s as much a place to construct identity as any other media platform. But you make an interesting point in that it’s better to have such lapses in judgement out in the open.

        So if that’s the mission, to sell twitter as an engagement tool to politicians and then wait with relish for the moment they expose themselves, that sounds quite progressive and radical. Count me in.

        • Dave says:

          Dave, I’m slightly confused by your tone here, and will do my best to be conciliatory.

          There’s so set defined criteria for doing well on twitter, as we both know, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for a broad consensus of what activity is likely to have a positive response within the community. Off colour jokes of the sort on display with this incident I would say don’t fall into that category of activity, and I would imagine that on the occasions that you yourself have shown people twitter and how to use it, you’ve probably said as much. Indeed, I don’t see why research is required to prove that saying nasty things about other people on the Internet isn’t a good thing to do, especially if you are a public servant.

          As for your other point, no, there is no mission, which is pretty cleat from what I said. Again, it’s no more than common sense to say that if my elected representative is a twat, I’d like to know about it. Twitter cock ups might be one way that happens, so fair enough.

          The point is that many politicians use twitter and other social media tools, and the majority have no incidents like this. Those politicians find it useful, and it provides another channel for interaction with their electorate.

          Your previous comment said “we should stop encouraging them”. Why? Because one or two behave in an idiotic way? Because the entire political class is unable to use the Internet as well as you or I?

          I’ll continue to support local politicians to experiment with new technology, if it’s ok with you. Many are interested, and enjoy it when they get stuck in, and realise the benefits while having mature appreciation of the risks. I don’t see why the actions of one twerp in Birmingham should mean the end of online innovation in politics and democracy.

  4. Andy says:


    Social Media is often being used as the new lynching mob.

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