Wright should say sorry; Labour MPs should keep tweeting

David Wright is under pressure for a tweet yesterday. But Labour MPs should hold their nerve and avoid following the Conservative's lead of vetting tweets.

David Wright MP finds himself under the cosh today for remarks which appeared on his twitter feed referring to the Conservative party as a “scum-sucking pig”. Although the choice of words, whoever wrote them, were unwise, Labour MPs and candidates should hold their nerve and avoid following the Conservative’s lead of vetting tweets.

Paul Waugh this morning covers the latest in the row including details of a letter from Eric Pickles to the Government Whip and Wright’s own defence on BBC Radio Shropshire:

“I put up on twitter a message linked to Barack Obama’s comment in the Presidential race last year about conservative policy, which is you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.  It looks like somebody, a third party has gone into my account and made it more offensive.

“I think it was a legitimate comment and I mean twitter is edgy and you know it provokes debate, it looks on this occasion as if it has caused a serious problem and we need to go back and look at that.”

The incident could indicate that Labour blogger Luke Akehurst’s prophecy is coming true:

“Blogs, tweets and Facebook are actually more likely to be what loses a party the election than what wins it …

“As the Damian McBride affair showed, one ill-considered email, tweet, blog post or Facebook status upset by a candidate or campaigner can provide a lot of ammo for the old-fashioned media to shred a party’s campaign with.”

But unlike the Conservative party which is vetting candidates’ tweets and leaflets, the Labour party should encourage its politicians to use caution but continue to engage with activists and voters through Twitter.

Dr Nick Anstead, who specialises in the intersection between political institutions and new communication technology, told Left Foot Forward:

“Gaffes come and go, and have minimal significance to the big political picture. But a more controlled approach to Twitter would mean sacrificing I Love The NHS and thousands of David Cameron mash up posters. The point is, once you control one thing, you inevitably stifle the vibrancy of the community.”

Wright’s tweet was not a hanging defence but his dubious claim that someone edited his tweet has attracted a backlash. Instead, even if he hadn’t actually clicked send, he should have taken responsibility and said sorry allowing everyone to move on. In the long-run, the gains from openness and authenticity trump the short-term hit of putting your paws up.

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