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On twitter etiquette – and why Tories would be wise to reveal all quickly re funding and access, right and wrong

Posted on 26 March 2012 | 12:03pm

I enjoyed meeting the comedian Dave Gorman on Andrew Neil’s This Week programme, when he led a discussion on the etiquette of twitter. One of the points he made was that when something happens which is deemed to be big news among the twitterati, people with a lot of followers after a while get asked why they haven’t commented yet.

This is particularly the case with deaths. Dave pointed out that he liked Davy Jones of the Monkees, but saw no need to tweet about his passing, which led to him being asked why he was silent, as though this was some kind of offence against the rules of the twitter game.

The same kind of thing happens when people ask you to retweet tweets about charity and charitable fundraising. It can seem harsh to ignore, but the truth is if everyone retweeted every tweet they were asked to in order to send more people to another justgiving site (or more likely to be ignored) twitter would be even more chocablock with it than it already is. So I pick and choose, probably in a fairly random way, as I suspect most people do. But even doing that, I occasionally see tweets saying all I ever do is retweet charitable asks … can’t win and all that.

So all this is a long-winded introduction to answering the question a few people asked yesterday, here and elsewhere, as to why I was saying nothing about the Tory funding scandal. We’re back to the Dave Gorman point – tweeting and blogging is indeed a two way thing but ultimately it is up to the tweeter and the blogger what they say when. But there appear to be unspoken rules of etiquette that demand that on certain subjects, certain people have to say something.

If you watched This Week, you may recall I said that some days I just don’t bother with twitter. Yesterday was one of those days. I had a look every now and then, I may have engaged with one or two people when watching the Rangers-Celtic match, I may have retweeted one or two things, but I was by normal standards disengaged.

This does not mean I was uninterested in the Tory funding scandal; or that I don’t have views. But I am with Dave Gorman in thinking that there are no rules about when or what we say. If I want a day off from saying or doing anything, and from showing myself that it is possible to go a day without I will have it.

As to the scandal then, it is a mess. And the Tories would be wise to get to the bottom of it quickly. One of the mistakes we made with the Bernie Ecclestone donation, where the perception of wrongdoing was far greater than any wrongdoing, was to sit on information which got dragged out bit by bit, the perception getting worse with each dragging.

That is what is now likely to happen to the Tories. Of course if it emerges that people made large donations and as a result were given the privileged access promised by their former treasurer, then the wrongdoing may become greater than the perception, already bad. If it then emerges that they included people with a vested interest in the Health and Social Care Bill, we are talking what Mr Cruddas, in his fondness for vernacular, might call bloody big potatoes.

And of course, given that the Party openly advertises on its website that it is possible to gain access to the PM and others via donations, what Mr Cruddas was talking about was merely a question of scale. Therein lies their problem. On the one hand they are saying what he said was wrong. On the other, it is a logical step up from what they admit to doing, and therefore assume to be right.

  • liversedge

    George Bernard Shaw once found himself at a dinner party, seated beside an attractive woman. “Madam,” he asked, “would you go to bed with me for a thousand pounds?” The woman blushed and rather indignantly shook her head.
    “For ten thousand pounds?” he asked. “No. I would not.” “Then how about fifty thousand pounds?” he continued.

    The colossal sum gave the woman pause, and after further reflection, she coyly replied: “Perhaps.” “And if I were to offer you five pounds?” Shaw asked.

    “Mr. Shaw!” the woman exclaimed. “What do you take me for!” “We have already established what you are,” Shaw calmly replied. “Now we are merely haggling over the price.”

  • Olli Issakainen

    Corporate takeover of Britain.
    According to the Conservative party website it is possible for £50,000 to be invited to an event with the PM and other senior figures.
    According to Peter Cruddas for £250,000 you can also influence government policy!
    David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase Manhattan bank and founder of Bilderberg Group, told Newsweek in 1999 that “somebody has to take government´s place and business seems to be a logical entity to do that”.
    David Cameron, George Osborne, William Hague, Francis Maude and Nick Clegg are all members of the Bilderberg Group.
    Peter Cruddas, co-treasurer of the Conservatives, is a rich City dealer worth £800m. He is not inexperienced Arthur Daley-like figure.
    Mr Cruddas himself has donated £1.2m to the Tories, so he knows what fund-raising is about.
    It is illegal for foreign companies to give money to British political parties.
    Yet when the reporters said that the money was coming from Liechtenstein, Peter Cruddas promised to disguise the source!
    Private suppers in Cameron´s flat, dinners at Downing Street and visits to Chequers.
    Cameron and Osborne must surely have been aware of all this.
    Third runway option for Heathrow is back on agenda after BAA lobbying.
    Cameron´s EU veto and opposition to Tobin tax resulted from lobbyist pressure.
    NHS reforms, too.
    Retoxification of the Tory brand has taken a couple of steps backwards recently.
    Nasty party is back! Remember Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith…
    The aim of Messrs Cameron and Osborne is to marketise and covertly privatise the public sector in the interest of big business.
    The Tory-led government has also created a shadow government of committees, boards and commissions manned with people from McKinsey, KPMG and big corporations.
    Monitor, Office of Rail Regulation, Farming Regulation Task Force etc.
    Representation from the wider public is excluded.
    State should take care of party funding – not rich individuals or trade unions.
    Party donations should have no effect on government policy.
    We need an independent inquiry into the Cameron-for-cash scandal.

    Ps. Financial sector gave the Tories £6.27m in 2010-11. Biggest Conservative donors are: David Rowland £1.1m, Michael Bishop £335k, Mas Makhzoumi £308k, JCB Research (Anthony Bamford) £300k, David Whelan £100k, Jeremy Isaacs £50k, Hans Rausing £49k, Julian Fellows £40k, Annabel´s £20k and Bell Pottinger (PR group) £11k.

  • Anonymous

    Respectfully Alastair, I think the retweeting of charities or Dave Gorman commenting on dead Monkees are different.

    You were part of a government who took a bit of flack for donations and access, you are now part of an opposition who quite rightly likes to stick the boot in the government – both parties and a person like you are immersed in this issue. Not commenting on it would have made you and your party look suspicious.

    I don’t expect you to comment on bankers bonuses and other issues, but surely you have a bit of obligation to comment on things like war inquiries, leveson inquiries – and this?

    Anyway I’m glad to see you comment, as it was looking suspicious imo.

    I think David Miliband made a very good case yesterday on Andrew Marr.

  • Anonymous

    Respectfully Alastair, I think the retweeting of charities or Dave Gorman commenting on dead Monkees are different.

    You were part of a government who took a bit of flack for donations and access, you are now part of an opposition who quite rightly likes to stick the boot in the government – both parties and a person like you are immersed in this issue. Not commenting on it would have made you and your party look suspicious.

    I don’t expect you to comment on bankers bonuses and other issues, but surely you have a bit of obligation to comment on things like war inquiries, leveson inquiries – and this?

    Anyway I’m glad to see you comment, as it was looking suspicious imo.

    I think David Miliband made a very good case yesterday on Andrew Marr.

  • Miriam

    If you don’t tweet or blog on something, I just understand that you are a busy man with a life!

  • Chris lancashire

    You forgot to mention the Hindujas, Ecclestone and the cash for peerages scandals surprisingly plus, of course, not forgetting Michael Browne and Lord Ashcroft. And no, we don’t need another pointless and expensive inquiry – a la Leveson – to tell us what we already know: all political parties are fairly unscrupulous when it comes to obtaining money.

  • Gilliebc

    Lots of very good and apposite information in that post Olli.
     
    Though purely in the interests of fairness, I think it should also be pointed out that many top Labour people are and or were Bilderbergers too!
     
    Surely the ‘penny must be dropping’ by now for most people that Democracy in this country is largely an illusion.  The two main parties both now pursue a globalist agenda, in line with their Bilderberg and Bankster bosses.  There is not much left now that our so-called Governments of any shade have any real control over any more. 
     
    No wonder they are now referred to as Blue Labour and Red Tory!  I do still believe however that there are a few albeit a very few number of MP’s in all parties that are basically good and decent people and who went into politics for all the right reasons.  They are of course totally over-ruled by the larger majority of others who are there to line their own pockets by doing the bidding of their Bilderberg masters and co-conspirators whose aim is to create a One World Government along with all the horrors that will come with it.
     
    The big problem with getting people to see what’s really going on is that the majority of people are just too ‘nice’ for their own good and make the mistake of believing that those who govern us are governing in our best interests.  Well I am sorry, but they are not!  That fact is becoming more evident almost every day.
     
    Do you know what though (as they say) occasionally a tiny part of me wonders, what if ‘they’ i.e. the powers that be, what if they are right?  Maybe humanity as a species is pretty much ‘ungovernable’ You only have to watch a mob in action to at least consider that possibility.
     
    It’s probably the love of money and power that is at the root of this country’s and the wider world’s problems though.

  • Anonymous

    As usual I don’t really have anything of mind blowing proportions to contribute, just the observation (probably made more than once by more than one person) is that when people “follow” on Twitter they think that they know you, I think it’s intensified when it is someone who has been in the public eye. I have to admit I recently blocked someone on there because they were asking too many questions. I love Twitter and the opportunities that it gives to communicate but it can be bloody scary. Surely most people don’t expect replies from people with thousands of followers, it’s just a nice bonus when they do.
    I can’t even comment on the “donor crisis” callmedave is experiencing  as currently I’d prefer people to donate towards anything but the Conservative party, how about a whip-round for the NHS? No?

  • Ehtch

    I find, usually, just a gin and tonic does the same job.

  • Ehtch

    Tory HQ donations has always been dubious, ever since the landed gentry got a bit less landed, due to death duties and Lloyd George. Lloyd George really stuck it up them, marvellous. Peerage anyone?

  • ZintinW4

    Alistair – given your busy schedule I’m amazed you get through as much as you do. As for not responding to tweets or not commenting on particular events I think it’s a judgement call. Too often people tweet or comment with ‘brain flatulence’ to be polite. A splurge of nonesense (I suspect I do this when commenting on Football forums).

    Just keep up the good work!

  • Trevorsmith

    Working in Nigeria for 25+ years helped to readily accept the philosophy behind the saying that “nothing goes for nothing”
    Of course those wealthy donors to the Tory Party’s coffers did’t hand over their money out ot the goodness of their hearts they expected “something for something”
    But according to Maude it is all the Labour Party’s fault in accepting money from the trade unions. Money  which appears in both  the Union’s and Labour’s accounts.
    The problem the Tories currently have is the lack of transparency and apparently a willingness to bypas the regulations governing money from overseas.

  • Anonymous

    I know its the blog before, but everyone seems to just read and reply on the latest one – I saw an analysis re the minimum alcohol price, which pointed out that there is a consensus in this country now that if you tax behaviour you’ll get less of it… be it smoking, be it drinking, be it polluting etc etc. Cameron, Salmond, Campbell, Blair all seem to buy this argument – if you tax something more, you’ll get less of it.

    So the question is chaps… why do you all believe in such high taxes on work then?

  • Miriam

    I can’t remember AC being part of any government.  He has never been an MP or a Lord to my knowledge, so I don’t think he would be eligible.

    I thought he was an employee, similarly I am an elected officer for a constituency Labour Party.  I’m not sure if my views are sought on every piece of breaking news.

  • reaguns

    Miriam! I’m just saying that some things look bad for the party – for example this post of yours! I am not a member of the question time audience so don’t expect the stuff that works on them to work on me!

    You and I and every reader of this blog know that if we ask 100 people if Alastair Campbell was part of the government, a very sizeable majority will say “yes”! If that still doesn’t satisfy you, fine, insert “high level employee of the labour party” in my post instead.

    AC was in on strategy and policy as well as communications, and though I may post contrary views here I actually think he did a cracking job, and also believe his heart was in the right place.

    And no, I can’t think of anyone called Miriam whose views on this issue will be as sought after as Alastair’s. I was perhaps wrong to say he had “an obligation” but anyone who can step beyond the childish politics understands what I mean – spin doctor for the New Labour govt’s views on this funding thing are very interesting, given ecclestone, cash for honours and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, this Cruddas thing is worse imo than anything Blair’s govt did.

  • Janiete

    I don’t see why anything Miriam said, looks bad for the party. The point being made was that currently AC is not elected or employed to perform a public role for the Labour Party.

    None of us have any right to demand a response to any issue.  If he doesn’t want to, hasn’t got time to or prefers not to for any reason it’s perfectly OK.

    Just like you and me AC is free to do as he chooses and we shouldn’t expect otherwise.

  • reaguns

    When politicians of either side say things like this, it looks bad. If you were on Question Time and someone asked you “Was Alastair Campbell part of Tony Blair’s labour government” what would you say, and what would you think most of the public would think of you if you said no?

    I wasn’t demanding a response BTW, I was pointing out that no response would look dodgy.

  • Miriam

    I don’t know what Janiete would say, but I would say that no, AC was not part of the government and then perhaps state what his job was, and I don’t think that it would be a controversial thing to say.  How many people really believe that?

    You always get the odd member of the public who may expose some ignorance, like the ones who kicked up a fuss when GB became PM because he wasn’t elected as PM and they gave away their lack of knowledge of the British political system.

    But not many people would be able to run off the names of those in the current government, let alone the one of around a decade ago.

    How many people would be able to name who succeeded AC after he resigned?  Just what does the role mean to the public?

    Does everyone even know who AC is? I have seen him travel on the underground unrecognised (except by me).  I doubt that would be the case if the whole country saw him on a par with TB, GB, David Blunkett, Clare Short, Mo Mowlem, Robin Cook and all the others associated with that government.

  • Anonymous

    This series of replies are either the dumbest, or the most deliberately obtuse things I’ve read on this blog.

    Every man and his dog would say Alastair was part of the last labour government. We all know he was way more powerful and influential than most of the MPs and indeed cabinet.

    This is not new, people have advisers and so forth. Was David Cameron part of the government when he worked for Michael Howard or Norman Lamont?

    You either know perfectly well that to the average voter / layman AC was part of the labour government.

    Or else you don’t know many things perfectly well.

    It doesn’t matter anyway, it is semantics to distract from the issue, it would work on the average question time viewer but you’ll have to do better with me. (Come debate me on economics sometime).

    As I said you can change the words part of government to Spin Doctor and my post still stands. When Labour’s spin doctor at the time of Ecclestone, cash for questions etc doesn’t speak about this issue it looks dodgy.

    Anyway, he exercised his grey matter more than you and did speak about it.

  • Miche

    AC quite often posts or writes words to the effect of ‘when we were in Govt’. 
    It is NOT the same as claiming to have been a member of it unless there’s a new type of MP that was neither elected nor has voting rights??? Yeah?
    Stop brow beating about your chosen MISinterpretations.

  • Anonymous

    As I said, most people think he was part of that government (because he was) but no matter, insert spin doctor instead, post still stands, and these are feeble retorts from 3 musketeers.

  • Anonymous

    P.s. its big of you guys to exonnerate Cam from blame re Andy Coulson (nothing to do with govt according to you.)

    I will do Cam no such favours.

  • Michele

    Vortex avoidance post – a ‘debate’ having reached 1 letter per line and endless scrolling due to a ‘member’ (I mean what the parenthesis hints at) becoming so frustrated that their browbeating of others is not persuading them to agree, so insults about their being ‘dumb’, ‘stupid’ or having taken the Musketeers’ Oath ……. inhale…….
    It’s insulting and pathetic behaviour.
     
    AC was and still is part of Labour. 
    So am I, it does NOT mean I was part of a Labour Govt so why do YOU demand agreement from others about your assertion that AC was?
    Now try to stay calm …. if ‘our’ AC was not part of Govt (while being part of the No10 machinery) it follows that Cam’s AC (Coulson) was also not part of Govt. 
    He was close to it, he was leeching and doubtless leaking from it but he was not part of it. 
    Being PART of Govt means having a vote within it. 
    You might as well claim that lobbyists are part, rather than deal with the real nature of their power from outside it and acknowledge that some of it is actually beneficial, AC’s influence about presentation being an example of that. 
     
    The juvenile need for people to agree with you and to sodding well insult them if they resist is beyond being fun. 
    Heat, kitchen, bear it.

  • Anonymous

    Noone ever insults me of course! I thought musketeers was quite endeering in comparison to ‘member’ lol. By the way, what would you say another term for someone who is “part of” something is, ie labour? Lol. I think all 3 main parties are full of ‘members’.

    I said, if we ask the average person on the street was Alastair Campbell part of Tony Blair’s government – they’ll say yes. Or more than 50 out of 100 will. Do you disagree?

    By the way I’m fine if you do – the implications of the answer are for you.

    And I say that more than 50 out of 100 people, if told that Alastair Campbell didn’t comment on party funding / donors, they’d reply with something like “No wonder” or “They’re all the same.” Again, do you disagree?

    I’m fine if you disagree with me. If I say 2 + 2 = 4 and you disagree… I’m fine with that.

  • Michele

     Nice try at a switch.
    Accusing people of not thinking for themselves is endeering (sic)?  I think not.  You know damn well what you meant with your ‘musketeers’ oath’ quip.

    I don’t give a fig what result a voxpop exercise would get ‘on the street’ – the discussion is about what IS and WAS, not about any old hype-swallowers’ perceptions. 

    Can you really not GET the difference?
    Neither AC was part of either Govt. 
    Both undoubtedly had influence and access.
    Neither got to vote on any Govt division.

    I am, however, expecting to hear eventually that DC’s AC was still receiving payments from NI while in No10 and hope we’ll also hear what for, whether there was something regular akin to a salary or payment by results.

  • Anonymous

    You also said I should “stay off the steroids” which I don’t mind at all but if I said such a thing to you, Janiete, or Olli you’d be complaining about it. (BTW I hope you’ve seen Stewart Lee turn tables on Top Gear in this regard!) I genuinely don’t know what you mean about ‘oath’ though?

    I do get the difference. By the letter of the law you can say “Alastair Campbell was not part of government.” But if you had say an elderly friend with only a passing interest in politics and they said to you at the dinner table “Alastair Campbell… thats the bloke that was in government with Blair wasn’t it?” You’d say “No.” would you? Ok you might explain that he worked for them, but what does the lay person think?

    Perhaps I should encourage this – it would be much better if Chuka Umuna and Andy Burnham (and their equivalents in other parties) stuck to facts on the likes of Question Time rather than layman’s terms and crowd pleasing garbage.

    Anyway, I would say Alastair had more say on policy than most ministers did. There is nothing untoward about that but saying someone else is in government and he is not, is basically semantics anyway.

    Regarding press and strategy, I think it is right to have someone anticipating stories, reaction to policies etc and I think AC was brilliant at this. I think Cameron would dearly love to have someone of the same calibre.

    Regarding schmoozing and being too close to the press I am afraid I feel they are all guilty of this ie I feel Murdoch and co had too much effect on policy through back channel means (as opposed to influencing it by what they published which is fine.)

    I think a relationship with the press should be more like CJ Cregg in the West Wing (cue derision – AC said on twitter he’s not seen it.)