Tweeting MPs Vote Less Than The Average - A Coincidence?
Louise Mensch’s was straight back on Twitter after a man was arrested in connection with threats made via email and a social networking site.
"To those who sent it; get stuffed losers," she wrote. "I am posting it on Twitter because they threatened me to get off Twitter," she added.
Louise Mensch tweets on all matters, from her defence of the Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow in Celebrity Big Brother, to her spats with Piers Morgan over alleged telephone hacking in the Mirror Group. And she's far from the only MP to tweet early and often.
MPs have been tweeting for several years, including inside the House Of Commons itself, despite rules to the contrary. Those rules will probably be formally relaxed in the coming months, even though a blind eye has been turned to it for some time. Quite often the MPs themselves don't send the tweets. They get their researchers to do it for them, and the results are pretty tame - ranging from updates on surgery meetings to all manner of personal offerings.
Despite this, it's obviously a development that some senior Parliamentarians are wary of. Lindsay Hoyle, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons told the Huffington Post UK: “The difficulty with Twitter is...once the bird has flown, it can be difficult to get it back in its nest."
“Twitter can be very useful, but can also be very dangerous," he added.
Deborah Orr, one of Britain's leading social and political commentators, criticised Mensch specifically in an article this week, saying:
“Some people find Mensch's manic hyper-engagement engaging. I'm afraid I just wonder why she doesn't use her time more wisely, to become better informed about her surely onerous duties before she makes public comment on them.”
Although there's nothing to suggest that MPs who tweet a lot are less informed, there is a trend in terms of how often they vote on legislation. Mensch's attendance at Parliamentary votes is 76.4% - below average for MPs though by no means the worst. Even so, her recent online issues don't seem to have garnered much sympathy in her constituency. A Corby constituent commented in Louise Mensch's local paper: "Now she has no excuse for not saying her emails work!!! She clearly receives them or has she set her spam up to ignore anything with "Corby" included in the message!?”
But Louise Mensch is far from alone in showing an interesting correlation between large amounts of tweeting and a below-average attendance in Parliamentary votes. Tom Harris, Labour MP, has published over 22,000 tweets but made it to Parliament to vote 51% of the time, well below average.
Jamie Reed, another prolific tweeting MP, has 2,000 people following him, but has only taken part half of the votes in Parliament - again well below average among MPs.
Not all MPs have to attend every vote, and MPs like Tom Watson are well above average in other areas, like the number of written questions they put to ministers. But it does beg the question, are we paying them to send tweets?