Today the Daily Telegraph published this article criticising Barry O'Farrell for the amount that he tweets.
Clearly the journalist involved has a little too much time on his or her hands this week, what with Parliament not sitting. I suppose we all have to make work for ourself from time to time, but surely there was investigating that could be done?
I mean more than calling round for a quote and counting tweets, obviously.
There are, however, two things I want to say about this article.
The first is this: engagement with the community is a good thing, and I can't believe anyone would suggest otherwise.
I think most of us want leaders who talk to the people - who are prepared to discuss, argue, debate, and have regard to the community's views. I want a leader who will listen and respond to what people are saying.
Before I had twitter and my blog to vent my spleen, from time to time I used to write to politicians to urge or dissuade them from some course. These letters weren't written with a crayon on the back of an envelope - I sent detailed submissions running to several pages on whatever it was that had gotten my goat up that day
Most of those letters never received so much as a form letter thanking me for my contribution. The only exception were the letters I wrote to Barry O'Farrell, he being my local member.
Each letter I sent to him got a reply thanking me for my contribution, making a comment and then committing to pass the letter onto the relevant shadow minister (as they would have been then).
Inevitably the letter was ignored by said shadow minster (or at never replied to). But the point was that he (or, at least, one of his staffers) took the time to at least acknowledge the letter. And that was a good thing.
On Twitter, O'Farrell engages with the electorate. He responds, he debates, he has things to say. I'm more than a little shocked that anyone could possibly think that is a waste of his time.
Let's have a look at what O'Farrell has tweeted about this week:
Comments about the musical Hairspray
A response to an enquiry about the lack of Oystercard style ticketing
A @StephenFry retweet
The Liberal Party's Federal Council
Meeting the Newcastle MPs and then watching the Newcastle Knights
A campaign he helped launch for more courteous driving
His City2Surf fundraising efforts
A debate with @greenat15 about the meaning on ANZAC day
A reply to @latikambourke about a new Federal Labor policy she reported on
Criticising @johnkgreens for "always [being] so negative"
Attending a rotary dinner
Tweeting that this morning "#imonlytalkingtoGladys" to promote cheaper CityRail tickets
A tweet about this morning's Tele article, with a link to it
And a whole lot of tweets about Origin and Rugby League in general
If you are critical about that interaction then you and I have very different ideas about what makes a good Premier.
The very best part about O'Farrell's time on Twitter is that he is doing Twitter right.
A lot of politicians don't really seem to understand what they are meant to do with this tweeting thing. Some simply tweet when they have given a speech, written and article or been quoted somewhere. Others disappear for weeks or months on end, then reappear and say "TOOK DOG FOR WALK MUST VOTE LATER" Still others simply tweet the party line on that particular day.
One politician in particular used to drive me crazy with the way she would announce some position or policy and then promptly retweet 10 replies telling her what a brilliant policy this was.
All of the above fit into the "better than nothing" category (but sometimes only just).
What O'Farrell does that is so good is that he not only tweets what he happens to be doing that day ("Giving a speech here" or "Big vote on this today") but he also makes comments, shares a reflection and tweets about his life. The same way most every-day people use twitter - every tweet does not have to be on message.
Even better though, he reads his @ replies (or, at least, some of them). He might then respond to your reply and, heaven forbid, even have a conversation.
|Some of @barryofarrell's replies from this morning|
Any politician who wants to criticise O'Farrell for that is, I think, showing an unfortunate arrogance. I'm sure it does take up some of his time. To me, there are few better ways for him to spend it.
This brings me to the other thing I wanted to say about this article. Who is the idiot Liberal giving the Tele a quote for this story?
The way I see it, there are a few possible reasons the Liberal gave the quote. Maybe they think Twitter is a bad idea and want to pressure O'Farrell to stop. On the other hand, maybe they want to tear him down because it suits their ambitions, although I suspect they are dreaming if they think a Labor-style leadership spill is possible anytime before the next election.
More likely, however, this quote was given to curry favour with a journalist, on the theory that it can never be a bad idea to have a journo who owes you a favour.
It is stupid, and disloyal to boot. But I suppose this is the world we live in today - this is what politicians do.
I for one hope O'Farrell never disappears off Twitter, and ignores stupid stories like this. His community engagement is wonderfully refreshing and should be applauded, not criticised.