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.


Sign up to the New Statesman newsletter and receive weekly updates from the team... And, of course, follow us on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.