Rise of the iMPs

With Obama’s ‘masterful use of social media’ and the tweets of his 3 million Twitter fans sealing the election of the Democrats’ golden ticket, can our politicians and parties emulate this success and seduce the online masses and turn them into advocates?

There’ll be new blood on the hustings. According to Home Office sources, 134 serving MPs will be “spending more time with their families” instead of contesting in May (87 Labour, 35 Conservatives, 7 Liberals and 5 others.) While natural churn of MPs is only to be expected for personal, health and career reasons, that is an almost 50% rise on the 85 who stood down in 2005.

Various news sources have indicated that this might have something to do with expenses, surely not! Nevertheless, the stage is set for new firebrand candidates to fill the vacuum and the re-standing candidates to face fresh competition. These candidates have been immersed in social media explosion of the last 5 years in their private lives and now are looking to galvanise support with it through their political careers.

The vast majority will be utilising social media and search mentions to push their agenda and their shiny politician faces, at present a mere 81 serving MPs are without their own website.

New web savvy and Twitter prolific Prospective Parliamentary candidates (PPCs) or ‘iMPs’ include Chuka Umunna (Lab, Streatham, Twitter following 1,397) Iain Lindley (Con, Worsley and Eccles South, Twitter following 481) and Bridget Fox (Lib Dem, Islington South and Finsbury, Twitter following 698.)

We’re not expecting the right honourable member for Bexhill and Battle to boast a Twitter following in the millions, but parliamentary process is becoming more and more integrated with social media, one need only look to the fervent activity on Tweetminster to see that.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at how specific iMPs’ social media campaigns are progressing and our ever changing Election Dashboard will also analyse how Brown, Cameron, Clegg and co are competing in the social media stakes.

Finally, there’s always that elephant in the corner to confront after the election dust has settled: ‘Does a big online following translate into a seat in the Commons?’

© Robert Sharp “Downing Street” Photo. Attribution 2.0 Generic

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