I enjoyed meeting the comedian Dave Gorman on Andrew Neil’s This Week programme, when he led a discussion on the etiquette of twitter. One of the points he made was that when something happens which is deemed to be big news among the twitterati, people with a lot of followers after a while get asked why they haven’t commented yet.
This is particularly the case with deaths. Dave pointed out that he liked Davy Jones of the Monkees, but saw no need to tweet about his passing, which led to him being asked why he was silent, as though this was some kind of offence against the rules of the twitter game.
The same kind of thing happens when people ask you to retweet tweets about charity and charitable fundraising. It can seem harsh to ignore, but the truth is if everyone retweeted every tweet they were asked to in order to send more people to another justgiving site (or more likely to be ignored) twitter would be even more chocablock with it than it already is. So I pick and choose, probably in a fairly random way, as I suspect most people do. But even doing that, I occasionally see tweets saying all I ever do is retweet charitable asks … can’t win and all that.
So all this is a long-winded introduction to answering the question a few people asked yesterday, here and elsewhere, as to why I was saying nothing about the Tory funding scandal. We’re back to the Dave Gorman point – tweeting and blogging is indeed a two way thing but ultimately it is up to the tweeter and the blogger what they say when. But there appear to be unspoken rules of etiquette that demand that on certain subjects, certain people have to say something.
If you watched This Week, you may recall I said that some days I just don’t bother with twitter. Yesterday was one of those days. I had a look every now and then, I may have engaged with one or two people when watching the Rangers-Celtic match, I may have retweeted one or two things, but I was by normal standards disengaged.
This does not mean I was uninterested in the Tory funding scandal; or that I don’t have views. But I am with Dave Gorman in thinking that there are no rules about when or what we say. If I want a day off from saying or doing anything, and from showing myself that it is possible to go a day without I will have it.
As to the scandal then, it is a mess. And the Tories would be wise to get to the bottom of it quickly. One of the mistakes we made with the Bernie Ecclestone donation, where the perception of wrongdoing was far greater than any wrongdoing, was to sit on information which got dragged out bit by bit, the perception getting worse with each dragging.
That is what is now likely to happen to the Tories. Of course if it emerges that people made large donations and as a result were given the privileged access promised by their former treasurer, then the wrongdoing may become greater than the perception, already bad. If it then emerges that they included people with a vested interest in the Health and Social Care Bill, we are talking what Mr Cruddas, in his fondness for vernacular, might call bloody big potatoes.
And of course, given that the Party openly advertises on its website that it is possible to gain access to the PM and others via donations, what Mr Cruddas was talking about was merely a question of scale. Therein lies their problem. On the one hand they are saying what he said was wrong. On the other, it is a logical step up from what they admit to doing, and therefore assume to be right.