It’s become rather a political cliché for politicians or their spokespeople to say ‘we’re not going to provide a running commentary’ as a way of rebuffing repeated questions from journalists about an unfolding story or sequence of events.
It is easy to see why people will often want to avoid given minute by minute updates, especially if they would be in response to ‘breaking news’ that is really ‘latest questionable gossip’.
Hence it was no surprise to read this week that:
Nick Clegg is mounting a direct challenge to David Cameron by ruling out any moves to repatriate powers to Britain from the EU while eurozone leaders are struggling to save the single currency…
The split over the EU came amid continuing coalition tensions over reform of the House of Lords. The Lib Dems expressed irritation after a senior cabinet minister told Tory MPs that the junior coalition partners should settle for the removal of the 92 hereditary peers and elections to replace them in 2015.
“We are not going to give a running commentary on the many Tory ideas we will be hearing over the summer,” one Lib Dem source said.
No surprise, but increasingly problematic because stories pass round so quickly on social media.
Even when a full and accurate rebuttal to the original story appears, it often gets far less social media mileage than the original faulty story. Add to that the lingering impact from reading day after day stories about what awful things the Tories are going to get up and only the occasional Lib Dem response and what do you get? Activists, members and supporters subject to a regular barrage of negative stories, which it can be very tempting to believe the worst of.
Even if the answer is not always a running commentary, it certainly needs a running supply of Liberal Democrat news which – in the party’s official social media accounts – is often unfortunately absent. We get the occasional rare update rather than a regular stream of good news and then it often gets only a relatively small distribution.
For a simple example of the issue, compare Andy Burnham’s attack on the Lib Dems, which turned out to be wrong, with the Lib Dem Press Office rebuttal of the story. 385 retweets plays 15 (at time of writing).
Liberal Democrat Voice, especially with its Twitter account now that Alan is mostly running it, obviously tries to help with this, and individuals can do so too by retweeting and sharing on Facebook and Reddit (the most important social networks in this respect).
What would be great to see is more coming out from the party which can be resused and reshared. After all, ten good tweets a week is less text than one press release.