Hats off to Marcus Brown at The Kaiser’s Toilet blog for this brilliant bit of sleuthing, uncovering the fact that someone in Conservative Central Office has the job of spying on every single mention of “David Cameron” on Twitter. No sooner had Brown posted a link to his latest blogpost than some poor intern from the CCHQ blog police descended to monitor what he had said about their Dave. His site stats (below) clearly show their use of Twitter search in this way:

What an awful job. How depressing. How glum that must be. I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. And every time my initial tweet gets retweeted, well, they keep coming back. May be they have to by some central office decree – may be they have been ordered to click on every link that is remotely connected to the two words: David and Cameron. – Marcus Brown

Just how paranoid are CCHQ?

This insight into Tory tactics online comes in the same week their reputation for a “hands off” approach with right wing bloggers took a serious knock. Accusations of party office meddling have been a consistent line of attack from Conservatives ever since Labour’s failed dalliance with central control.

Left Foot Forward were among a number of sites covering Tory blogger’s boozy hospitality on the Ashcroft dollar. Within minutes of publication, a piece on Eric Pickles’ briefing to the Tories’ online army was subjected to a barrage of critical comments by a veritable “who’s who” of Conservative blogging. Figures including Iain Dale, Tory Bear, Steve Green, Tory Rascal, Francesca Preece, Einy Shah, Man in a Shed, Mike Rouse, Steven Adams, David Breaker and Ollie Cromwell all logged on to vent spleen. So who could be responsible for co-ordinating this conspicuous and rather clumsy rebuttal operation by bloggers who – to a man – were all on the guest list for the briefing referred to in the Left Foot Forward piece?

Scrapbook can confirm that this effort was led by CCHQ, with online chief Sam Coates sending an email to all invitees, pointing them in the direction of the offending blogpost.* Embarassingly enough Coates wrote in November that “the real strength of the centre-right blogosphere up to now has not been in working together or toeing lines”. Oh, dear!

In the words of one Tory blogger this week:

“It’s really obvious when you try to coordinate attacks quite so unsubtly.”

*No, not the fake one that was sent to various lefties (nice try).

  1. I wasn’t venting spleen. I was hungover all day and found the whole thing highly amusing. I also wouldn’t put myself as a ‘figure’… I work for all colours and drink anyone’s beers. Anyway, if there is such a level of organisation that you credit CCHQ with why would the first rebuttal be such an obvious one? Surely they would have had attendees maintain cover until a better story came along.

    And as for somebody from CCHQ monitoring traffic around David Cameron – so what? I know, for example, that somebody in Downing Street is a regular reader of John Redwood and various other blogs. It’s all part of the game.

    I do feel sorry for whoever has it as a job though.

  2. PS: Just a thought, but you should add this to your style.css file to give your comments a bit more paragraph spacing:

    div.commenttext p {
    padding: 0 0 10px 0;
    }

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  6. I’ve genuinely no idea who has set up a search on David Cameron, but I’m impressed with them for doing so.

    Also don’t see the issue with mentioning a false account of the bloggers event to its attendees?

    We can’t tell bloggers what to do anymore (often less) than we can lobby journalists etc – I know what it’s like being on the other side of this, remember. But the idea that political parties shouldn’t have any communication with bloggers whatsoever is anachronistic and elitist.

    Have now blogged about the event on our website btw.

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  14. shock! party has media monitoring!

    At least the conservatives can afford press officers!

    And you do your reputation no favours by churning out what was proven to be a bullshit allegation by left foot forward.

  15. toryboysnevergrowup says:

    What is comical is that Pickles thinks that his Tory Bloggers can counteract negative stories by putting our positive stories about the Tories. Hasn’t he read their blogs – at least 90% of which are devoted to negative stories about whoever it is thay don’t like today. Smearing is what they do and my guess is that what Pickles will ask them to do.

    Perhaps a little less comical is how this blogger has been rehabilitated less than two years after the Tory Party wouldn’t touch him with the proverbial bargepole

    http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Politics/Tory-Sterilisation-Councillor-John-Ward-Resigns/Article/20080341310637?lpos=Politics_Article_Body_Copy_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_1310637_Tory_Sterilisation_Councillor_John_Ward_Resigns

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  17. I don’t think this really is a “brilliant piece of sleuthing”.

    Most major coporations, and public figures, monitor social networks for mention of them. It is a good way to interact with people – think of it as a rolling focus group.

    I know that Labour lag behind the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats when it comes to utilizing new technology, but if (and I would be most suprised) noone is monitoring when Gordon Brown is discussed then it’s about time they found out what the country thinks.

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