By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.
It's late on Sunday afternoon, the men's final has finished at Wimbledon, not a mouse is stirring at Westminster, and I don't feel like writing about politics. But I want to devote a word or two to the expected tweet sent out, at roughly this time each week, by one of the few MPs who understands how to work Twitter properly. Here it is:
I concede at once that these miniscule verbal offerings, as tiny as haikus, are as unremarkable as photos grabbed on a mobile. Furthermore, they tell us nothing about the political views of my former colleague David Jones, now a Minister at the Wales Office. Not that he is incapable of tweeting about that sort of thing:
But all politicians do this – and if it's all that they do, it's not worth reading them. I feel the same way about those who simply send out what's essentially a running commentary on their diary engagements or constituency events. Let me cite one who is important enough not to be remotely bothered about anything I may write.
This reveals nothing much about what the writer's like – his likes, his dislikes, his quirks, his character, what makes him tick. I hope that I'm not being unfair to the Foreign Secretary, but it's fairly typical – and it's odd at that so witty a man should send out such matter-of-fact tweets. The explanation must lie with the inhibitions and restrictions of office. Again, Jones can do this sort of thing, which presumably comes with the turf.
But consider this:
Whatever you think about swans or asteroids or IPads – and even if you believe that Jones is wasting his time sending messages about them – they tell you something about what gets him going and grabs his attention, about what sort of person he is. This is something that people are now looking for in their politicians. It's what they like about Boris and Ann Widdecombe…even John Prescott.
I know, I know: I can't stand him, either. But you have to admire the way Prescott just keeps going, hasn't lost his zest for the fray (some our our former Cabinet Ministers could do worse than follow his example), and the way in which he's mastered a new medium when he's not exactly in the first flush of youth. Jones is less well known (not to mention nicer) but Nobody Does It Better.
I apologise to those of you who think that Twitter is a trivial business, and that I'm wasting my time and yours by writing about it. I apologise doubly, because I'm completely useless at what Jones is good at, since I tend to use Twitter only to link to my articles. As I say, it's late on Sunday afternoon, the men's final has finished at Wimbledon, not a mouse is stirring at Westminster, and I don't feel like writing about politics.
But I do want to say that other politicians should have a look at the way in which Jones uses Twitter.