QUESTION: What does Steve “Three Jobs” O’Connell, the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, and the CIA have in common?
Whether there are any further “connections” between the two, senior Croydon Council officials with over-fertile imaginations would probably withhold the information and refer to a “need to know basis”.
The deftly judged entrance to the world of Twitter by the American intelligence agency, sent just before 2pm East Coast time from their headquarters at Langley in Virginia on Friday, was, “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”
Suffice to say that the early social media activity of O’Connell was less widely acclaimed.
For Britain’s most overpaid local councillor, last week’s emergence of the @SteveO_Connell account marks a return to Twitter.
O’Connell, who is also the Conservative councillor for Kenley ward on Croydon Council, scuttled away into the digital shadows a couple of years ago after he was caught publicly grandstanding on social media about how he was getting tickets for a football match, at the same time that there was a council meeting going on for which he was being paid to attend as a Croydon Council Tory cabinet member.
O’Connell’s first utterances on Twitter last week included expressing his unlikely vision of getting a Tube link to Croydon (“Challenging Tfl [sic] today about the underground as a member of the Transport Cttee. Be great to get it to croydon and or sutton”). O’Connell would do well to start by working to deliver on the tram route extensions to Crystal Palace and Sutton which he promised alongside Boris Johnson when seeking re-election in 2012.
On June 4, in one of the earliest offerings from his new account, O’Connell referred to his party’s defeat at the local elections in Croydon: “4 years of opposition beckons, now we have shaken ourselves down v look forward to tearing into Labour for the good of the Town.”
Of course, being on Twitter implies a degree of engagement with the public which O’Connell has singularly avoided in the past, despite his trousering £115,000 a year in publicly funded allowances from City Hall and Croydon Town Hall at one stage.
So why the change of heart now?
Inside Croydon has been made aware of a document circulated to a handful of senior Croydon Conservatives, including O’Connell, ahead of a post-election debrief meeting held last Monday. Drafted by Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, the confidential document was particularly critical of the Croydon Tories’ conduct in social media – in particular the vacuum on Twitter created by the absence of O’Connell and his florid-faced local leader, Mike Fisher.
The document went further to express the importance in local opinion-shaping of this very website, which he mentioned by name.
Yes, according to Barwell, and to paraphrase a Kelvin MacKenzie headline from 1992, “it’s Inside Croydon wot won it”. Very flattering, of course, but another symptom of Croydon’s Tories wanting to explain away their failure at the local elections by blaming everyone but themselves…
Barwell, of course, faces a stern test if he is to hold his Croydon Central seat at next May’s General Election. In his paper he continued in his assessment to make a thinly veiled appeal for more money to pay for the costs for running a similar, Tory-leaning website – perhaps some form on online Glee Club? – to support his campaign.
In the meantime, he’ll have to make do with the Twitter witterings of his old mucker Steve O’Connell, who when we last checked had attracted the grand total of 50 followers on the social media tool.
- Steve O’Connell took gift from cricket fixer Majeed
- Accountability? Not from Kenley’s £115,000 pa councillor
- ‘Dumb’ and dumber: outgoing councillor’s rant to regret
Coming to Croydon
- Crystal Palace Transition Town annual meeting, June 11
- Old Town residents’ meeting, June 11
- David Lean Cinema: Under The Skin, June 12
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Croydon Green Fair, North End, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- David Lean Cinema: Suzanne, June 19
- Airport House swing dance free event, June 21
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- David Lean Cinema: Feet from Stardom, June 23
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- David Lean Cinema: The Lunchbox, June 26
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)
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