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PoliticsNovember 30, 2019

The one golden rule for politicians on Twitter


The latest idiotic tweet by a politician comes courtesy of the National Party’s Jo Hayes, who launched an unprovoked attack on a Labour supporter, calling him ‘ugly’.

You know how it is. It’s just before 11pm on a Friday night. It’s been a long week. All there is left to do is log on to, click on the profile of someone, alight upon their pinned tweet – it’s a picture of that someone; it’s five months old, and there he is in a gown and cap: “Last week I graduated,” he says, simply. In response to which you volunteer, naturally: “OMG Youre such a nasty  person and i hope that people checking you out for future work will visit your twitter page and see how ugly you  really are.”

The tweeter in this case was Christchurch based National list MP Jo Hayes, and its target Jeremy Greenbrook-Held, a former Labour Party candidate. However much it might look like the flotsam of a crap parody account, the tweet – since deleted – was authentic, as verified by Newshub.

It gets weirder yet: Jo Hayes has two Twitter accounts. There’s @johayesMP, whence she sent the “ugly” tweet, and then there’s @jo_hayes1. We know it’s hers too because she links to it from her official page on the National Party website. Another clue that it’s hers is that it’s full of, let’s say, idiosyncratic tweets.

Such as, from 2016: “Tweet 4 today, – NP is shit hot and LG&NZF is not.”

In her most recent post from that account, Hayes offers a view on twentysomething Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Replying to a post by the New Zealand Herald account, which is totally a normal thing to do, she says: “never assume just coz Chloe is young that the youth vote is hers, coz word on the ground is youth dont like Chloe”.

Impossible to say for sure which youth on the ground Hayes is getting her intel from, but we do know that last weekend she, a sitting MP, was beaten by a literal schoolboy in the contest for the National Party candidacy in Palmerston North.

The most interesting thing about a close analysis of the two accounts is that Hayes decorates one profile with a pic alongside Bill English and the other, with a pic of her and John Key. Is this an implicit criticism of Simon Bridges? Is the spill on? Or is that Simon in the stormtrooper suit?

At least Hayes has company in the Bad Tweet marquee. The canon includes then minister for disability issues Nicky Warner posting a picture of a shimmering blue sea and writing, “Busy with Disability meetings in Auckland- rather be out on the harbour!” Judith Collins tweeting out bullshit news. Clare Curran haranguing journalists. The time Nuk Korako’s kids got hold of his phone and started spraying insults everywhere. The time Gareth Morgan got hold of his own phone, and emitted a tirade on Bottom feeders, crap and whores. And of course, that glorious day when Australian PM Scott Morrison posted a video that included the lyrics “Who fuckin’ tonight?”

A leaked guide to social media for National Party candidates from the last election offered sensible advice for sorties on the information superhighway. “Digital brand = personal brand: Your online presence is an extension of yourself and contributes to your image and brand, so think carefully about what you post and how it reflects on you.”

On Twitter it cautioned against overuse, noting it has “a much smaller, less mainstream audience than Facebook”. But “it can be useful to get your message out to local journalists” – as Jo Hayes successfully evidenced today.

The National Party handbook continued: “Twitter is a high risk medium. Only create a Twitter profile if you are a confident social media user. Since it is so easy for journalists and opponents to follow you, a lapse in judgement or even a typo can land you in trouble.”

Hayes was so confident she created two accounts. But it wasn’t so much the typos that landed her in trouble as it was the calling someone ugly and hoping that his work prospects suffered. So the National Party advice is good, but not sufficient. And while it is not in my professional interests as the editor of a website that enjoys very much dumb stuff on social media, in good conscience I have to say it.

When it comes to Twitter, there is one true and simple and timeless and golden rule for all MPs. It is this: Do Not Ever Tweet.

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