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  1. Science & Tech
9 April 2010updated 01 Jul 2021 12:14pm

Why Labour’s Twitter twit had to go

Candidates need to learn that they can’t say on Twitter what they wouldn’t say in public.

By George Eaton

So Twitter has claimed its first political scalp. Once the Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan’s abusive tweets were uncovered today, his position looked untenable to me.

Strangely, less than half an hour before he was removed, the Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, was still insisting that MacLennan would remain the party’s candidate for Moray and was fighting off Tory and SNP calls for his head. But clearly once Labour high command realised the extent of the abuse, there was no chance of Murphy winning the argument.

Some commenters on my earlier post disagreed with me when I suggested that candidates should learn that they can’t say on Twitter what they wouldn’t say on Newsnight or Today.

By this I don’t mean that they should adopt the same tone or manner, but rather that they should approach everything they say and write as if it’s designed for public consumption. In the case of Twitter, where tweets can be viewed by non-followers, it’s hard to think of a more public medium.

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With this in mind, it’s hard to see how someone who describes pensioners as “coffin-dodgers” and jokes about “slave-grown” bananas could ever hope to represent the public in parliament.

But MacLennan is nothing if not prophetic. On 6 April he tweeted: “Iain Dale reckons the biggest gaffes will be made by candidates on Twitter — what are the odds that it will be me?”

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
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