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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A question of authenticity

Using social media as a politician is always fraught with danger, especially when you are not in control. Sometimes it is risky if the politician is in control.

It is obvious that many ministerial accounts are run for them by their advisors. I have seen tweets from Ministers appear whilst they have been on their feet talking. But then that is the nature of that particular beast. Most politicians though will run their own social media accounts.

I was a little taken aback therefore to read in today's Telegraph that some MPs are questioning whether the rather clever and witty twitter account run by the former deputy prime minister John Prescott is actually being run by him.

The paper describes Prescott's twitter account as a revelation. They say it heralds a remarkable transformation of the former deputy prime minister John Prescott from a word-mangling Old Labour attack dog into a social media aficionado widely regarded as one of the funniest politicians on Twitter.

But is it the former Deputy PM running the account or somebody else? The paper has its doubts:

His pithy comments on stories in the news – from the latest Government setback to the humiliation of the England football team – are regularly retweeted hundreds-of-times over by his devoted followers and invariably feature in lists of “Best Tweets of the Week” in magazines and newspapers.

The witticisms he penned about Michael Gove following the news earlier this year that the former education secretary enjoyed listening to rap music were particularly well received, featuring, as they did, clever pop culture references and cute word play. “#goverap Public School Enemy” was a reference to the seminal American hip hop group Public Enemy, as well as a sly dig at Mr Gove’s comment about the “ridiculous” number of old Etonians in the Cabinet; while “#goverap Straight Outta Comprehensive”, was a pun on the title of a 1988 track Straight Outta Compton by the rap group NWA, or N---az wit Attitudes.

He also made Twitter titter with a joke about beer-drinking Nigel Farage when the Ukip leader decided not to fight the Eastleigh by-election - “Nigel Farage Ale. Bottling it since Eastleigh” - and came up with the perfect riposte earlier this summer when a hacker broke into Labour’s official account and pledged to provide every citizen with their own owl.

“I've always been Owl Labour”, joked @ johnprescott.

 But, People learns, not everybody is convinced the 76-year-old, who has admitted in the past that he doesn’t type, is the author of all his own tweets.

“John engaged with me once on Twitter about the film Zoolander,” says Conservative MP Nadine Dorries. “He tweeted about himself doing the 'blue steel pose’ and we had a volley of amusing tweets. I actually remember thinking, 'Gosh, he’s human after all!’

“But a few days later, I saw him in the Commons and mentioned it, and it was obvious he had no idea what I was talking about.”

Other MPs have similar suspicions. “For someone with such an unblemished record of strangling the English language, Lord Prescott does seem remarkably witty on Twitter,” agrees fellow Tory Charles Elphicke.

So if the former deputy PM is not writing his tweets, who is? All paths seem to lead to his son David, a PR executive and active Labour campaigner.

John Prescott is not saying either way.
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