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Twinge at the Labour conference 2009

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 28 September 2009

Read and watch highlights from Twinge event at the Labour conference in Brighton, hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and featuring Ed Balls MP, Caroline Flint MP, Tom Watson MP and Labour Twitter czar Kerry McCarthy.

On Monday night Channel 4 News and Fishburn Hedges hosted a "Twinge" – or Twitter fringe - event at the Labour conference in Brighton.

Dubbed "Twinge: you Tweet if you want to", the meeting brought together several present and former members of the Labour government to discuss the effect of social networking applications – and in particular Twitter – on political life in this country.

Watch the whole Twinge here, raw as it happened

The debate was moderated by Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and included –

 


Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the Twinge meeting that the potential of social networking to influence the political debate was “massive”.

He said politics was not commanding much loyalty because people felt it was out of date - their expectations were now about “dialogue, not monologue”.

And commenting on the success of Barack Obama’s election campaign in the United States, he said that it combined modern methods of communication and “the oldest form of political engagement of all”.


Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw suggested that Labour was ahead of the Conservative Party in terms of its Twitter presence because “we’re a modern party… We’re young and hip – well, some of us are.”

Discussing former deputy prime minister John Prescott’s status as a social networking early adopted, he suggested that five years ago most people would have been surprised at his position as “Twitter king”.

And discussing Hazel Blears’s criticism of Gordon Brown (“YouTube if you want to…”), Bradshaw said that her point had quite a lot of truth in it – that new media in the end could not beat going around and knocking on people’s doors.


Tom Watson MP talked about the Twitter response to MEP Daniel Hannan’s criticism of the NHS on US television. Twitter, he said, allowed you to get into a debate about the issues very quickly.

“What I find fascinating over the summer,” he said, was that “a switch came on” in the wake of Hannan’s comments. It made  people realise that “there’s actually an ideological struggle going on between us and the Tories”.

“We stand for the NHS – they’ve got a different view of the world… It was social media that got the political incident up the agenda.”

Ben Bradshaw alluded in his contribution to the debate to John Prescott.

In fact, John contributed a YouTube video for his "fellow tweeters" from Strasbourg. "The beauty of this," he said, referring to YouTube and other social networking applications, is that "you can be authentic, you can be honest, you put your own view".

And responding to calls for a national debate between leaders of the main political parties before the next election, he asserted that it should be on "on public service, like BBC or Channel 4 - what do you think about that, Krish?"

The Twinge debate
Below are the highlights from the "You Tweet if you want to" debate, complete with video extracts and Twitter comments.

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