There's been a bit of a debate today between the various local parties about use of twitter. One of my colleagues asked a question about councillors using twitter during full council and it was seen as a direct disagreement with myself as I am a prolific tweeter, by the media and Labour..
However what they did not consider is that I can be a prolific user of social media and still agree that tweeting should not happen during full council.
My reasons are:
1) Recipients are only getting one side/opinion and if they are that interested they could attend the full council instead of taking note of 140 characters worth of biased opinion.
2) you can't be listening properly if you are tweeting and we councillors are not allowed to vote unless we have listened to the whole debate.
3) The mayor has asked that mobiles are turned off during debate so if that's the case how can tweeting be different from using it to look at e-mails etc?
4) Most of the tweeting that goes on at Ipswich full council is from councillor Ross who seems to use it to be personal rather than informative so what 'guidelines' are going to come next, about what we can or cannot do? Isn't it just easier to tweet afterwards?
I also would like to categorically confirm that my leader councillor John Carnall has never been against tweeting. In fact he has spoken up for me when a certain Gavin McClure planted worries in people's minds about my tweeting when it was under the name IpswichTories. I changed it to StokeParkCllr so that I could give my own opinions and not be seen to be speaking on behalf of all Ipswich Tories. Fair enough and happy to oblige but it was McClure who put pressure on me about this, not Carnall.
There are a few councillors who are worried about my blogging, rather than tweeting, and there's no doubt that it can cause a lot of attention and media press but I enjoy being contraversial and it has brought me thousands of readers. So now I am able to inform through my blog, all my activities and my personality. We are more than just councillors, we are wives, parents, grandparents, professionals, business owners and above all human!
And a final clarification
By an unfortunate set of circumstances I missed yesterdays council because Ben Gummer MP had organised a trip to Westminster for my residents in Stoke Park, the first of many regular visits which will see all his constituents receive the same opportunity. There was no way John Carnall was going to ask me to choose council over being with my residents and bringing them closer to their MP and Westminster. My job is about the people and they take priority when it clashes with any meetings. Although disappointed about the date he gave his permission immediately.
And It was a wonderful occasion - I was truly grateful to see the House of Lords as well as Commons. I could've tweeted as I went along but I used the time to listen to my residents, take in the history lesson that Ben gave us plus lived in the moment of taking in the splendour of the whole building.
I also missed last council meeting because I was receiving an award for services to young children, again permission given by my leader who understood that it was important to me.
I always attend meetings and if anyone begrudges me those 2 occasions then I can't help them & nor do I want to.
So to conclude, I prefer to live, give and listen rather than sit, tweet and pretend that I have any real power, as a backbencher, sat at a meeting.