THE BLOG

Why Sending Messages to David Cameron Is Less Effective than Writing to Santa

03/05/2013 15:44 BST | Updated 02/07/2013 10:12 BST

Every year thousands of children write to Santa, apparently hoping he will take their letters as evidence that they have been good and reward them by having his elves lovingly craft them an iPad or games console.

Every year thousands of parents fail to post their children's letters to Santa and instead throw them away. Fortunately, most children of letter-writing age realise that Santa doesn't exist and are simply giving their parents a list of demands while managing to present themselves as endearingly cute.

By contrast, David Cameron does exist and, sadly, he doesn't live in an imaginary grotto in Lapland surrounded by happy elves. However - like letters to Santa - messages sent to him on Twitter are destroyed without being read by the addressee. A freedom of information request has revealed that each month thousands of direct messages are deleted without even being read, let alone replied to.

Obviously the electorate is not stupid and most of us would expect Dave to have a team of elfin advisors to manage his Twitter account for him. However, this makes the deletion of messages without them being read seem even worse. Taxpayer funded staff are being paid to delete messages but not read them, while Mr Cameron attempts to use Twitter to make it look like he's close to the people.

Mr Cameron's @Number10gov Twitter account follows more than 372,000 people. This means that each of those people is allowed to send him direct messages. To follow that many people and have their messages destroyed unopened seems rude, to say the least.

We know that Mr Cameron has an ambivalent relationship with Twitter. In 2009, when asked about the social media site, he said: "Too many twits might make a twat". This is undoubtedly true - as certain MPs have found to their shame. However, to use Twitter for electoral reasons and then disregard messages from the electorate makes him look just as bad.

For some it will appear like contempt for the public, while to even his loyal supporters it could look like Mr Cameron is missing a valuable opportunity to engage with voters.

Explaining why messages are deleted, Downing Street has claimed that most contain "no real substantive content". How they would know that unread messages contain "no real substantive content" is beyond me. If you would like an answer to this, I propose you send a tweet or direct message to @Number10gov. If Mr Cameron or his helpers deign to get back to you, please let me know.