I wrote yesterday about whether the idea of civil servants staying silent would remain viable in future election campaigns. Patrick Butler has now reflected back that thought more elegantly than I managed:
Purdah looks less workable now, when social media – Twitter, blogs, Facebook – is so universal. It is easy enough to silence the departmental tweets. But what about the individuals-who-also-happen-to-be-public-servants, who, in their private lives use social media to comment, discuss and argue (non-impartially) on the issues of the day, including politics. When, for example, are they tweeting in their capacity as civil servants and when as private individuals? (the same question might be asked of journalists).
But actually, I have just realised, we may already closer to that point than it may first appear. I have just looked at the stats for this blog, which run back to September last year when I moved from typepad to wordpress. Traffic grew month by month from September to March. It did then fall back in April – but to the level it was in January, leaving April as the third busiest of those eight months, despite there being very little new material. In other words, the back catalogue has begun to take on a life of its own – unwittingly, I continue to speak even when I thought I was being silent.
That in turn means that the idea of being more guarded in a an election period itself becomes questionable. People have been reading what I wrote months and years ago: the readers may have had the election in mind, but the writer certainly didn’t.