Kit Bradshaw, a public sector press officer, writes about how he used Twitter to secure visits from two prospective parliamentary candidates. You can find Kit on Twitter @kitbradshaw and read his blog online.
The mediocrity of this year’s General Election campaign was brought into sharp focus by #Milifandom. The extent of the coverage it received just shows how desperate the media were to inject some excitement and scandal into a thoroughly uninspiring and stage-managed campaign. Maybe it was because of this, and the relentless monotony of commuting to an office job in London, that meant I didn’t quite wake up to the fact we were about to pick the next UK Government until last week! Last Wednesday (29 April), to be precise.
The exact moment was at 7.20am, as I was making my usual fast-paced dash to the station for the morning cattle train to the capital, when an older gent wearing a bright red rosette thrust a Labour leaflet into my hand. If I could go back now I would kiss that party activist on the forehead because that leaflet started a series of events that roused me from my commuter-stupor and awakened my inner politics geek, which I can only presume had been in hibernation since I picked up my BA Politics in 2012.
As I (and my inner politics geek) began to fully wake-up on the train to work, Labour leaflet and obligatory Metro in hand, it dawned on me I had done absolutely no research on the candidates battling to represent me – and the rest of Old Bexley and Sidcup. With the ‘presidential’ national campaign it’s easy to forget that neither Cameron nor Miliband will be on the ballot paper on Thursday, instead we’ll all be voting for our local MP. Overcome by a strange sense of civic duty to research the pack and what they stood for, I attempted to find out if there was a local hustings I could attend. For those who don’t know, Wikipedia defines hustings as:
‘An event during an election campaign where one or more of the candidates are present and debate or give speeches.’
However a quick Google resulted in disastrous news; the hustings had been and gone, taking place a whole two weeks earlier at a church down the road. So was that it? Had I missed any opportunity to hear from my local candidates? Sadly, Google had run out of answers; there were no links, no iHustings catch-up service and a quick glance at the candidates’ websites revealed a load of bland, corporate words (likely written by well-meaning press officers at their respective party’s HQs).
So on the walk home that evening, in a last ditch attempt to discover who I should vote for, and in the spirt of what Sky News keep calling the ‘Digital Election’, I whacked out my iPhone and tweeted the three main candidates – James Brokenshire (Con), Ibby Mehmet (Lab) and Jennifer Keen (Lib Dems) – with a simple question…
— Kit Bradshaw (@kitbradshaw) April 29, 2015