Public Affairs: Soap Box - Olly Kendall, founder, Westminster Public Affairs

A few days ago, Westminster Public Affairs conducted some research to establish how much time MPs spend sending tweets. The headline that went viral was that our elected representatives spend 1,000 hours a year on Twitter. Which is true.

But of course, after a few hundred retweets the story had morphed and people were reporting that this was a weekly figure, or the amount for a single MP. In fact, when you pick it apart, 1,000 hours per annum for all MPs is pretty low - around four minutes a week for each of Twitter's 275 MPs.

Granted, those of us on Twitter including MPs probably spend way more time reading Twitter feeds than actually posting, so you could easily treble the 1,000 hours figure to get a more accurate picture of parliamentary Twitter usage.

Even then, a figure of 12 minutes a week is hardly outrageous. Indeed, used well, time spent on Twitter should generate good returns for MPs. It's inconceivable, for example, that anything other than a small minority of Tom Harris MP's 10,000+ followers are fellow politicos. They're ordinary people, I dare say many of them his constituents.

What other forum allows an MP to speak directly to as much as ten per cent of their electorate without the often distorting filter of the traditional media? How many times have we heard that MPs are stuck in their SW1 bubble?

If anything it's not how much time MPs spend tweeting but how little and how few are signed up - less than 50 per cent - that is the real scandal.

However, with the number of MPs on Twitter almost trebling in the past 18 months and as opposition election candidates are selected ahead of 2015, many more of whom will surely be Twitter savvy, it's only a matter of time before the majority of MPs succumb. That is, of course, unless we're all extolling the virtues of Tumblr by then.

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