Peter Hoskin

Cameron should avoid these Twitter traps

Cameron should avoid these Twitter traps
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Oh dear.  The Twitter wars are continuing apace, now that David Cameron has risen to John Prescott's challenge of a debate on the NHS.  The mediators are the Manchester Evening News, who have just published Cameron's response to Prescott on their Twitter feed.  So what is it?  Erm, this:

"The real question is why won't Labour match the Conservatives' pledge for year on year real-terms increases in NHS spending over the next Parliament"

As I said last week, there are definite dangers with the Tories pushing this line quite so eagerly – not least because it plays into the Brownite idea that spending is a good thing in and of itself.  But, more generally, it demonstrates why Cameron should steer clear of Prescott's Twitterific hunting ground.  There's not a lot of space for nuance in 140 characters, and – as we've seen over the past week – that can help fuel tittle-tattle and caricature.  What happens next?  Does Cameron get challenged to add a #welovetheNHS tag to his tweets?  And will Prescott claim a moral victory whether the Tory leader does or doesn't?

All in all, I'm not sure what Cameron can really gain from debating with Prescott.  Sure, the Hull East MP may have reinvented himself as a web personality, but it's not as though he's a key player in government or in the world of health policy.  But if the Tory leader really is committed to this debate, then far better for him to do it in the real world – where he can more sensibly discuss the grey area between #wehatetheNHS and #welovetheNHS.