Twitter, tweets and twits: what Croydon really thinks

Here’s a selection of responses from the Croydon Twitterati about the use of the platform and local politics. These include some responses sent directly to the Croydon Sadvertiser, but we have not cut them for length or to suit any particular, prejudiced editorial line.

This is clearly an entirely unscientific survey. And should you wish to add your own views, we have the Comments box available, as we offer with all our content.

UPDATED Nov 21: Have added one or two further questionnaires, received after we published the original post.

Patrick Ratnaraja
Spokesman for Croydon Community Tamil Organisation and Conservative Party activist

Why do you use Twitter? To let my followers know what I am up to
Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Most councillors don’t know how to use Twitter as they become councillors for retirement income. Only one Croydon MP and a former MP use Twitter.
How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? Elected politicians have been caught out using Twitter. They should be careful with their words
What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? Croydon or any politician should engage with the residents of their constituency.
Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? Yes. If so, why? Blocked unknown women.
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him (though he mentioned no names). Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? Never asked Croydon Central MP to follow me on Twitter. I am not following him either. If a resident asks a reasonable question that is holding him to account. But an MP cannot please everyone.
How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? For me I don’t have to be. An MP has to be accurate.
Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters (more Labour than Tory, for example)? More Labour members who have nothing to do (they don’t like working). Tories do go to work and have no time for Twitter.
How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? If it is constructive will aceept it. If not will defend it.

Brendan Walsh, Croydon Greens' Twitter spokesman

Brendan Walsh @CroydonGreens
Aged 39, Croydon resident for 11 years, civil engineer
Why do you use Twitter? To represent the views of the Croydon Green Party on local issues, to let people know what we are doing and to answer any questions that are put to us by the twitterati.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Twitter allows everyone to have a voice, however little it may seem. Knowing there are plenty of people out there who share your opinions or concerns keeps your spirits up when the tide of bad news from the Council seems overwhelming.

What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? When politicians engage with each other it tends to be of a Punch and Judy nature. It’s boring to see but I know myself that it is difficult to allow an opponent get away with an untrue, or hypocritical, statement unchallenged. When dealing with the electorate, however, I think a politician should be expected to maintain a civil tone as a bare minimum.
Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? Just one, for an abusive attack on a politician of a rival party. The standard of debate is generally good and needs to be kept that way.
How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? My role as representing more than just myself requires me to try to keep my tweets clear, while maintaining a conversational style when it’s called for.
Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters (more Labour than Tory, for example)? Tories on twitter get attacked for the actions of the council and would spend all their time on the defensive. I’m sure many Tories are appalled at the prospect of an incinerator downwind of Croydon but could never say so in public. So they keep their heads down, stay away from Twitter, and enjoy the easy ride.
How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? When I’ve been criticised on Twitter I’ve tried to explain the reasoning behind my thinking. After that you have to just let it go. A long-running slagging match is quite a tiresome read.

Janet Stollery, @janetstollery
Charity co-ordinator, from Coulsdon

Charity worker Janet Stollery: saddened by the conduct of elected politicians on Twitter

Why do you use Twitter? For my charity work mainly (marketing, profile raising, events fundraising) but also to keep abreast of what is going on locally, especially Coulsdon v London Borough of Croydon.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? I am saddened by the amount of bickering, especially by MPs and former MPs and cross-party politics. It gives the impression that politics is only about point scoring, not actually helping the people they are elected to help/serve.
I think it is a very bad thing that Twitter is used in this way, although it is at times also amusing.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? I think that many (but not all of) Croydon’s politicians act disgracefully and that they should all be put in a room to sort out their differences, not clog up the airwaves with petty squabbles. However, I think that Andrew Pelling does seem to have a heart, which is not obvious with the rest of them. I’m not in the constituency that he used to represent but I understand he was well loved by many.

Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? I don’t think I have ever blocked anyone as nobody has aggravated me enough personally.

You’re often found engaging in discussion with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. He says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him (though he mentioned no names). Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? By pester, I assume you mean people who are trying to find out what his motives are and why he appears to contradict himself much of the time. That in my book is holding him to account, not pestering.

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? I think it is extremely important and I always check facts as it is pointless spreading false information.

Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? It is inevitable that the opposition will criticise the ruling party – that is politics.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? I think you should take each case as it comes and say sorry if you are wrong.

David White @davidwhite020
Lives in Park Hill, semi-retired solicitor and former local councillor

Why do you use Twitter? Partly for entertainment/fun; partly to know what’s happening in politics and other areas.
Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Is this a good or a bad thing? For those involved it has changed things enormously. Members of the public can actively debate with those who can influence matters much more easily than before. However, it is only a minority of politicians and an even smaller proportion of the electorate who use Twitter.
Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? I would never block someone unless they were abusive or similar.

You’re often found engaging in discussion with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. He says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him. Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? Sometimes GB seems to find people who tweet to him a nuisance, but other times he seems to enjoy debating. I can see that it must be difficult for MPs, with so many demands on their time, to respond to everything thrown at them on Twitter.
Although I disagree with him on many things, and think that sometimes his responses are rude, I think GB is to be congratulated on engaging with Twitter and writing his blog as it keeps people much more in touch than would otherwise be the case.

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet?
I think accuracy is very important but the immediacy of the medium sometimes makes accuracy difficult.
Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? I’m biased but I think a lot of Tory councillors don’t have much of a mind of their own and just peddle the line which their leaders give them. They find it hard to debate on Twitter.
How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? Politicians should expect to be criticised. They are of course entitled to defend their position but they should respond politely. Criticism by politicians of other tweeps is a different issue – they are often not used to the rough and tumble of political debate and the politicians should be sensitive to this. Cyberbullying is a serious issue.

Anthony Miller
Local stand-up comedian and promoter

Why do you use Twitter? I don’t.

Anthony Miller: proof that not all comedians use Twitter

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Is this a good or a bad thing? Probably but I don’t use it. This is for practical reasons. Twitter is just another platform for gig requests to get lost on. Also if I wanted to express myself with that much brevity I’d try haiku.

And to be honest I still don’t entirely understand how it works and am unable to properly follow conversations on it. It seems like a self-publicists and bullies’ charter (the two things are very often the same), so as a self-publicist and bully, I wisely opted out.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? I used to have to read an entire newspaper to get one ill-advised quote from a politician. Thanks to Twitter, such material is now mass-produced. I think they should tweet more. It’s usually comedy gold. Particularly when they “lose their rag”.

Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? I’ve never blocked anyone on any platform but I do have a large spam box.

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? It depends how fond of your house you are but I guess most people turn a blind eye to Twittter when it comes to libel… although I believe there have been cases… but I don’t know if it’s a serious risk.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? It would depend on the severity of the criticisms but most of my personal enemies tend to prefer to launch salvos from more solid platforms.

Timothy Godfrey @timothygodfrey
Labour councillor for Selhurst ward

Social Media and bloggers are transforming local news, views and holding the establishment  to account.

It’s time that public bodies like Croydon Council, local businesses and the established news services accept the new sphere and importance of easy access, non-censored, non-commercial views and campaigns of local blogs and Twitter.

Elizabeth Ash @ElizCro
Sanderstead resident, library campaigner

Why do you use Twitter? I use it to keep in touch with other library campaigners and library news; to spread the word about the plight of Croydon libraries. It’s a great way to “meet”, share ideas and debate topics with others locally and further afield.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? (councillors or MPs) Is this a good or a bad thing? Don’t know. It has highlighted to me the openness of some and the unwillingness and defensiveness of others. Politicians who engage constructively and who are open to questions or willing to share information can only be a good thing.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? They should conduct themselves as I would expect them to in the “real world”. Politeness and openness are important. Politicians vary. For example, I’ve “met” Wayne Lawlor and Timothy Godfrey via Twitter and see that they are willing to engage and debate.

Some like Tim Pollard have accounts they rarely use and often then only to make a jibe at another. Gavin Barwell is probably the most prolific Tweeter but he seems very quick to attack which is unhelpful not just to the person he is attacking but it portrays him in a negative light. His language is unfortunate and he keeps demanding apologies. I’ve not found any other tweep who conducts themselves like this.

Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? No. I’m open to all views. I’d only do so if someone was racist or abusive.

You’re often found engaging in discussion with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. He says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him (though he mentioned no names). Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? Certainly I don’t consider that I pester or bombard him, and I’ve not seen others do so either. I’d call most exchanges just questions or comments based on what he tweets as they tend to be soundbites, often without detail. Some I suppose I’d say could be considered as holding him to account. As someone who regularly speaks for Croydon, surely he is accountable to all residents, not just Croydon Central?

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? Always! If you get it wrong it is important to say.

Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? It would appear that Croydon Labour are most willing to engage. They seem less defensive and more open. Croydon Greens are next best at engaging. If Tory tweeters were more open it would be a positive move for them but they don’t seem to realise the value of accountability or engagement, using more as a tool to praise themselves or make snide comments others… or so it seems to me.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? Stay calm but rebut it if it is not true or explain your point. There is no need to belittle others. Let’s face it, if people can misunderstand emails, the potential for tweeps to misunderstand 140-character messages is massive.

Andrew Rendle: If you don't like the Twitter heat...

Andrew Rendle @AndrewRendle
38-year-old father of three, Woodside resident, school governor, freelance engineer

Why do you use Twitter? It keeps me up to date and gives an opportunity for debate and comment in real time. Also as someone newer than some to the political scene in Croydon it’s a great way to network and be recognised as someone to watch out for, as you can instantly show to a wide audience that you have legitimate thoughtful views and arguments.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Is this a good or a bad thing? I think it’s great that you can effectively debate and hold elected representatives to task immediately. You have to be careful as Twitter is so up to the minute, you must make sure that your tweet has been thought through and can be backed up if needed. This goes for the public just as much as the MP/councillor. I think it has changed politics as tweeters now feel connected to Westminster or the Town Hall more then they ever have before.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? As they would in any other part of their public duty. Some are better and smarter than others.

Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? Not yet.

You’re often found engaging in discussion with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. He says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him (though he mentioned no names). Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? It depends if your tweet is based on fact or just dislike of the individual or the party he represents. I’m not sure how much a tweet can pester; you don’t always have to rise to the bait.

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? Very.

Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? There’s not much for the Tories to tweet about, it would just be full of bad news so probably makes political sense for them to keep there heads down. However, that may be perceived as weakness and shows they are not entering the debate publicly. Also Conservatives are by nature wary of anything new.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? If its legitimate criticism take it on the chin and analyse the other point of view, you can then repost with your argument. One could say though if you are or want to be in the public arena then “if you can’t stand the heat”…

Bushra Ahmed, @duona61
Victim of Croydon riots in August

Why do you use Twitter? Connects to a lot of people and their views on any given topic very quickly. It allows you to engage in local debates you may otherwise never hear about and react with comments on national stories to those you would never normally be in touch with, like journalists.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? I think its fair to say that it has changed the way politics are conducted but only for the people on Twitter, which is by no means a majority. I think its good to be able to see directly from your politicians their views on any current local issues and get to know them a little by their tweets.
I think it can be bad when politicians let their egos take over and forget they are public servants, and as such are accountable to us.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? Politicians should be honest and true to their feelings but must be aware of their position in the same way as they would in any newspaper interview.

I have found with some there is a danger that they take critisicm personally and become defensive, reacting in an ill-considered manner, sometimes even be quite rude.

You’re often found engaging in discussion with Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. He says that he has considered blocking a number of people who “pester” him (though he mentioned no names). Do you think you “pester” or bombard him with questions or would you call that holding him to account? I don’t think its pestering, I only started holding him to account for his rude manner to local people’s valid concerns about their services and community.
I have decided not to engage with him further because I dont think he has anything much to add to any debate. That doesn’t mean I would block him, I just cant be bothered with the jibes at the moment.

How important is it to be accurate with what you tweet? I would always think twice before stating something as fact or believing what someone tweeted without checking. However Twitter is also a medium to express your own opinions, and people will always disagree on those.

Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? I think its because Labour are the opposition and have more interest in raising issues than maybe Tories would like to be kept out of the sphere of discusssion, and slip under the radar, so to speak.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? If you are on Twitter expect critisicm, along with the #ff and the nice things people say, take it on the chin, if you don’t agree with it and want to answer back, you can or just block those you don’t like, all the options are there.

Wayne Lawlor @waynejplawlor
Labour councillor for South Norwood and member of opposition front bench team at Town Hall

Councillor Lawlor: Twitter has changed political communication

Why do you use Twitter? Good comms tool.

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? Is this a good or a bad thing? It has changed the way politicos communicate. Don’t think its changed dynamics. Not that widely used to be so powerful, yet. Some good as we don’t always know what they get up to, bad as it can lead to cyber bullying.

How do you think elected politicians should conduct themselves on Twitter? What do you think about how Croydon’s politicians act? Politicians must accept, tweeting privately or not, that people will have views to share and axes to grind. Responses are not compulsory but always good to engage. Politicians shouldn’t get too drawn into personal issues. Casework should be dealt with confidentially, not in public. MPs should not encourage the latter. Always helpful for some to remember that they are not in council chamber or Commons.

Have you ever blocked someone on Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not? No, but tempted to block BNP tweeps. Some of their comments disturb me, but better to ignore than block. I may disagree with them but they have a right to their views. Its important to be able to “speak” freely. People died for freedom of speech.

Why do you think there is a political imbalance among Croydon’s tweeters? Maybe because we’re more willing to engage. I suspect many Tories haven’t even heard of Twitter and don’t want to expose their dangerous policies.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? Being criticised can be difficult, but keep it civil and not personal. You may actually meet a tweep or two in the flesh.

Paul Williams @theboywilliams
Kenley resident, “old enough to drive, drink and vote”

Do you think Twitter has changed politics in Croydon and the way in which people engage with their politicians? It should do. But my MP is never around and my local councillor is one of Britain’s best paid politicians. Presumably they’re too busy to engage with the electorate.

How do you think you should react to being criticised on Twitter? As in other forms of life: read and understand the criticism; check what you said; talk to a friend about it and then reflect. If you think it was fair, act upon it. If not, explain (privately) to the individual why you disagree.

Saif Bonar @BizzyRascal
UK manager at freelancer.com, Croydon tech entrepreneur behind CR0tech

I think Twitter is an accessible medium which makes it easier for people who are prone to engage in local politics to do so more frequently. While any level of engagement and discussion should be welcomed, Twitter does have severe limitations.

First and foremost, given Twitter users are generally drawn from an above average socio-economic demographic, the issues debated may not be representative of the views of the entire population. The 140-character limit on a tweet makes it difficult to engage in any meaningful way. A significant issue with limiting communication in this way is the propensity for one’s tweets to be misunderstood or misrepresented.

Saif Bonar: Twitter has its pitfalls

Furthermore the technical limitations of Twitter mean its difficult for bystanders to follow all sides of a debate quickly or easily unless they are directly involved in it by way of an @reply.

The real-time or instantaneous nature of Twitter makes it easy for people to make comments which they may regret and while these can be deleted, the re-tweet button makes it difficult to retract something once it is out there. This is made more challenging in Croydon specifically with the Croydon Feed bot set to automatically re-tweet any message with #Croydon in it.

From the levels of activity on a local level it is clear that the Conservatives are less prone to using Twitter or engaging with the people than Labour councillors. I suspect that this is indicative of the Conservative “top down” approach to politics and management under Cameron on the whole, rather than being a reflection of technical ineptitude of Tory politicians.

In fact, the only Conservative representative using Twitter to any positive end is Gavin Barwell MP who is willing to engage far more than local Tory councillors on a range of issues. While he is much maligned for refusing to discuss issues with non-constituents, I feel he should be credited for being willing to engage on any level. Rather than sticking his head in the sand and watching the Twitter debate without contributing, Gavin gets involved. I also welcome his propensity to lose his cool and “have a go” back at those that attack him, it shows he is human.

My favourite local Twitter people in Politics are: @gavinbarwellMP because he is one of very few Conservatives locally using it to any real extent and @timothygodfrey because he is not scared to agree with people of a different political persuasion when they are right and because he manages to maintain a relatively positive aura even when disagreeing with people on key issues. Other favourites include @DavidWhite020 for showing humility, balance and at times a great sense of humour.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Twitter, tweets and twits: what Croydon really thinks

  1. I see Patrick Ratnaraja is keeping the #nastyparty going strong with his over-assumptive statements.

    I’m a Labour Tweep, and also a Mental Health Rights Tweep. I also Tweet a lot. Why?

    Much as I have 4 jobs ( Chairman of a National Schizophrenia Charity, Treasurer of a local one, Co-Lead of the Croydon Mental Health Forum, and also a Psychosis Advisor for SLaM ) I am also an advisor to Croydon Labour on Mental Health issues. Most of this is volunteer work ( unpaid ). The Big Society existed long before Cameron.

    So how do I find the time to Tweet so much? I’m Disabled. I have to rest a lot. So I sit around reading the papers, and pass the occasional comment on Twitter. It’s good to keep the ol’ brain sharp, and handy for my work to know what is going on in Current Affairs.

    I’d like to actually work more. I don’t enjoy being Disabled.

    So stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr Ratnaraja. Making sweeping and inaccurate statements about Labour types not liking work is highly inaccurate. And deeply offensive.

    Typical Tory rubbish.

    Like

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