According to the Brighton Argus, Brighton and Hove council is seeking to ban councilors from using Twitter during council meetings.
Apparently the constitution prohibits members from using “mobile telephoney (is this an Argus spelling mistake?)while inside the council chamber” whilst Mary Mears, the leader of the council, considered it “rude” that members were ‘tweeting’ as others were speaking.
The move to ban the use of Twitter in council chambers is becoming a growing trend (y’geddit?) across councils in England and Wales. It is some how deemed that councilors using Twitter during meetings are behaving out of the ordinary and aren’t paying full attention to those speaking, particularly members of the opposition. This view, whilst patronising at best, greatly underestimates the role of Twitter in opening up council proceedings to a newer generation of politicos, such as yours truly.
I considered Jason Kitcat’s ‘tweets’ from said meeting to be enlightening and engaging. Yes, it gives just one opinion of the proceedings, but I think we’re all intelligent enough to realise that. At no point did Jason personally attack another individual, such as the Argus article had suggested, instead he gave an honest and frank (you can’t be more than frank on Twitter) opinion on the proposed budget (which by the looks of it, seems pretty “dire” to me).
Council bans on Twitter are becoming a bit silly and highlight how out of touch some councilors are. If a councilor has either 200 or 300 or so followers on Twitter, that is an extra 300 or so people engaging with local politics and the democratic process on their doorstep, which can only be a good thing.
Let’s put it another way, how would Mary Mears feel if councilors were mandated to ‘tweet’ from council meetings? Probably not best pleased, I would imagine. So why would she, or anyone else for that matter, want to try and stop other councilors from ‘tweeting’ at council meetings? It makes no sense when you think about it. It’s not harming anyone. We all find something offensive or rude. Heck, I thought Mary’s proposed budget was offensive to the people of Brighton and Hove, it doesn’t mean we should ban her from speaking on it.
Whilst I accept that Twitter is not to everyone’s taste (neither is Conservatism), it still has its place in the council chamber and should be a matter of choice as to whether or not councilors wish to ‘tweet’ during proceedings. A ban on using Twitter is immature and sends out the wrong message entirely.