Research by Virgin Media Business has revealed that the Liberal Democrats have made the greatest strides of all UK political parties in using Twitter to match their new-found political power with online influence.
Virgin Media Business’s research discovered that Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is the UK’s most powerful political Tweeter. He was rated the world’s 4,060th most influential Tweeter out of more than 7 million users by twitter.grade.com – fewer than 2,000 places behind the world’s most powerful man, President Barack Obama. The UK’s next most influential political Tweeter is shadow foreign secretary and Labour leadership candidate David Miliband, who is 5,761st in the global rankings. No Conservative politician featured in the Global top 10,000, in spite of the party’s general election strategy of encouraging candidates to use Twitter as a way of engaging directly with voters.
Virgin Media Business provides government and public sector bodies with high speed communications through the UK’s only national fibre optic network. It conducted its study into the use of Twitter across Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont to determine how effectively politicians are harnessing internet-based communications tools to change the way they talk to voters and the media.
Among Westminster politicians Virgin Media Business found that 40 per cent of sitting MPs used Twitter. 57 per cent of Liberal Democrat MPs (30 out of 57), including all five of the party’s members who sit in the coalition cabinet, are active Tweeters. Their coalition partners, the Conservatives, were less advanced, with only 33 per cent of MPs (102 of 306) signed up to the service and a mere three Tweeting cabinet ministers. On the opposition benches, Labour just beat the Parliamentary average with 42 per cent uptake among MPs, but numbered an impressive 15 out of 29 Tweeters in the shadow cabinet.
Outside of London, the Welsh Assembly emerged as the UK’s second-most Twitter friendly elected chamber, with a take-up rate of 35 per cent among its members. Here Labour and the Conservatives trailed significantly behind the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. In Northern Ireland, general uptake among members of the Stormont Assembly was 27 per cent, with Tweeters’ party affiliations reflecting the Province’s unique political makeup.
Scotland was where Virgin Media Business uncovered the greatest mismatch between devolved and Westminster politics when it came to social networking. It found that only 18 per cent of Holyrood’s MSPs were Twitter users, compared to 45 per cent uptake among Westminster MPs with Scottish constituencies. The Scottish National Party also emerged as the least engaged of all ruling political parties when it came to Twitter, with only four Tweeters among its 47 MSPs.
Commenting on the research Lee Hull, head of public sector for Virgin Media Business said: “We’re all agreed that the ‘social media election’ many pundits were promising didn’t entirely transpire. But as our study suggests, the reasons for this may be that political engagement on Twitter is still patchy, with some regions and parties showing more commitment than others to the medium. Much of this is probably due to the scale of the task involved. The Liberal Democrats may have made the most progress in this field, but they are the smallest major national party, so have fewer politicians and activists to motivate.
“Looking at the way our elected politicians engage with Twitter as a new communication tool can, however, give us a glimpse at the future of government. What started as a useful tool for campaigning could be an important step towards a new system where public services and access to elected officials are delivered through multiple communication channels. Provided this is underpinned with the right networks and IT strategy, we can look forward to a system of government with far wider reach and greater accountability than anything we have today.”
About Virgin Media Business
Virgin Media Business is the UK’s only telco with a national fibre optic Next Generation Network. Launched in February 2010, the company aims to bring the Virgin philosophy to the business telecoms market. Providing innovative, high quality solutions built on brilliant customer service.
Virgin Media Business is the largest business-to-business brand in the Virgin group. With a strong product portfolio that includes its market leading Ethernet services. It uses its network asset in order to create bespoke tailored telecoms solutions for its customers. Employees are located at 40 offices across the UK, allowing Virgin Media Business to be closer to its customers in every sense.
Previously known as ntl:Telewest Business, organisations working with Virgin Media Business include London City Airport, Arqiva, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership and South West Water.