Twitter and libertarianism

Prospect poll on Twitter users highlights the growth of libertarianism

Libertarianism is the ideology of the future, judging by the new Prospect/YouGov poll on the "twitterati". The survey found that Twitter users are more concerned with civil liberties than the public at large, but also that they are more likely to defend multimillion-pound salaries and large bonuses.

The belief that greater police powers to tackle terrorism are more important than protecting civil liberties is supported by 57 per cent of the public but less than half of British Twitterers.

Prospect's press release suggests that the civil libertarian bias of Twitter users contrasts with the "popular view that David Cameron's Conservatives and their blogging supporters are the most adept online force in politics".

That may be so, but Twitter users also appear to be exactly the sort of constituency that David Cameron has so assiduously courted (with some success). To its shame, Labour has consistently been more authoritarian than the Tories on pre-charge detention and on ID cards. Prospect is right to identify Twitter as a "real force in British politics"; it's not one that Labour can afford to alienate.

More broadly, it is clear that the user-driven nature of sites such as Twitter encourages a libertarian mindset. I think we can expect to see increasing numbers of Conservatives redefine themselves as libertarians, and to witness the continuing growth of new forms of digital socialism.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.