Cameron the late tweeter slightly misses the point

The social media site is brilliant for the half-baked thought and spontaneous riff - less so for campaign messages cooked up by a team of advisers
  • @Simon_Kelner

Who says the Conservatives are behind the times? Only six-and-a-half years since Twitter launched, subsequently attracting 500 million followers and helping to inspire revolution and sedition around the world, becoming probably the most influential new medium of this generation, the leader of the Tory party and our Prime Minister has finally activated his Twitter account.

It is clearly, authentically, his, as his inaugural tweet betrays all the signs of a Twitter novice. After saying he intends to keep us posted about his role as Conservative leader, he signs off with a promise there won't be (and here I use his exact punctuation) “too many tweets...” Ignoring for a minute this rather empty piece of self-deprecation (oh, I don't really do anything that's of interest), it's the punctuation that gives the game away: two unnecessary inverted commas and an ellipsis – a complete waste of five characters!

Mr Cameron signed up for Twitter in 2010, and on the eve of this year's Conservative Conference he has been persuaded that a communication tool used by world leaders, sports stars and celebrities is for him. At the time of writing, he's got 84,000 followers and rising, and the question is how soon he will overtake his close friend and fellow late-adopting tweeter, Jeremy Clarkson, who went from 0 to 628,000 in impressively rapid time.

Mr Cameron took up tweeting on the day that the Chelsea and England footballer Ashley Cole used the network to call the Football Association (his employer when he puts on an international shirt) a bunch of t**ts, and the Prime Minister is well aware of the trouble a stray keyboard stroke, or a hastily-formed opinion, can cause.

Indeed, it's not that long ago that Mr Cameron himself said politicians had to think carefully about what they say and that “two many tweets might make a t**t”. But one of the attractions of Twitter is that it's purpose-built for the half-baked thought, the witty rejoinder or the spontaneous observation, and not for a communiqué crafted by a committee.

I think we can see from the people Mr Cameron has chosen to follow – around three dozen at the latest count – that he doesn't offer the promise of much controversy. Every one of his followees is, with the exception of Boris Johnson, a Conservative MP. For a man of such wide interests, why would our Prime Minister adopt such a narrow focus? He's not going to get a flavour of what the nation is talking about from that lot: he needs to stir it up with a few wild cards, like Joey Barton, or Dom Joly, or even Alastair Campbell. Or why not the official Aston Villa feed?

I hope, however, Mr Cameron won't spend too much time looking through his incoming tweets. I have said that this can feel like walking into a room where everyone's wearing a mask and screaming abuse at you. In your case, Mr Cameron, it will be more like walking into Wembley Stadium. Welcome to Twitter.