The Clegg effect in the Twittersphere

Lib Dem leader talk of Twitter. His party? Not so much.

Nick Clegg was the clear winner of Thursday night's debate as reflected in yesterday's (proper) ComRes poll and today's YouGov tracker.

What is also interesting to observe is how online attention turned sharply to the Liberal Democrat leader, if not his party.

 

According to our own analysis (see chart above), Nick Clegg was a lowly third in terms of Twitter mentions among the three party leaders the day before the debate. But in the run up to it and, more particularly, in the immediate aftermath his personal profile shot up. Indeed there was far more Twitter chatter about him than either David Cameron or Gordon Brown.

Mentions may equally be negative or positive but as a measure of public recognition, the rise will cheer the Lib Dems as much as the blogosphere, TV and newspaper verdict.

What is equally striking, however, is how little impact Clegg's performance has had on mentions of his party (see chart below). This may be a reflection on the increasing focus given to party leaders and perhaps matters little. The early opinion polls seem to suggest as much.

Nevertheless, it is crucial that Clegg's popularity translates into electoral success, particularly in the 20 key Lib Dem-Conservative marginals. In fact it matters as much to Labour as it does for the Lib Dems, because the Tories will struggle to gain an overall majority without those 20 seats. All of which helps explain why Labour spinners were being so nice about Clegg post-debate.

1. Party leaders: share of Twitter mentions - 14 April
David Cameron 34%
Gordon Brown 47%
Nick Clegg 19%

2. Party leaders: share of Twitter mentions - 15 -16 April
Nick Clegg 38%
Gordon Brown 32%
David Cameron 30%

3. Parties: share of Twitter mentions - 14 April
Conservatives 42%
Labour 33%
Lib Dems 25%

4. Parties: share of Twitter mentions - 15-16 April
Conservatives 42%
Labour 37%
Lib Dems 21%

Note: These numbers are based on how frequently parties and people were mentioned on Twitter between 14 and 16 April, with a number of adjustments to make sure that only mentions relating to the general election are considered. Mentions can be positive, negative or neutral, and should not be confused with popularity. The NS Digital Dashboard is powered by Resolver Systems.

 

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.