MP Jackson defends himself over Twitter criticism

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Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson has defended himself against a backlash following an angry exchange about sex education on website Twitter.

Mr Jackson posted a message during the row which said: “Sex education memo to sad tedious sex obsessed Leftie weirdos - you’re confusing me with someone who’s interested”.

But today, Mr Jackson said this ‘tweet’ was directed only at people who had sent him abusive messages and insisted he was interested in the views of his constituents.

He said: “I wanted to engage in intelligent debate but was met with a barrage of crude, personal abuse.

“I am always keen to hear from my constituents but these people were generally not even from Peterborough and were only interested in making personal attacks.

“It has made me think you can’t engage with people on Twitter. If it continues I may stop using it.”

The row began when Mr Jackson posted a message on his Twitter profile about the news that Peterborough had the fourth highest number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Eastern region.

Health Protection Agency figures released on August 25 said nationally there were 482,696 new STI cases in 2009 – a rise of three per cent on 2008.

Mr Jackson ‘tweeted’ on August 26: “Very disappointing news on STD rates in Peterborough. No doubt our liberal friends will tell us we need more sex education – as it’s worked so well!”

The argument snowballed during the next day, when people replied and sent him evidence disputing his statement on STIs.

In response, Mr Jackson tweeted: “Touched a raw nerve with shrill intolerant pro sex education Lefties who don’t like debating the issues.”

He was accused by some Twitter users of ignoring information they had sent to him in attempts to start a debate. Peterborough man John Coxon, who was involved in the row, posted to Mr Jackson: “We are attempting to engage you with evidence, you are ignoring us.”

In his final tweet, at noon on August 27, Mr Jackson said: “Left are simply unable to debate issues without personal abuse and vicious, shrill denunciation. Important we keep them locked out of power.”

Ed Murphy, Peterborough Labour party spokesman, said: “Stewart needs to remember that he is a political public servant and this is just plain rude.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for Peterborough City Council Nick Sandford added: “It shows a high degree of intolerance and is not what you want to see from your MP.

“It is also bizarre to blast the ‘left’, because his party is in government with the Liberal Democrats.

“He has also been a bit naive using Twitter like this – during the election the Liberal Democrats gave us advice on how to use these social networking sites and you have to be professional at all times.”

The web social media tool Twitter has become a new way for politicians to interact with their electorate.

Twitter expert Will Callaghan, an IT consultant from London, contacted the ET about Mr Jackson’s posts.

He said: “I had never heard of him before I got an email about his tweets - he has had a nightmare.

“MPs should be professional at all times and this is something lots of people are talking about.”

MP Stewart Jackson has made 493 updates on his profile, seen automatically by 776 people who are following him.

As his profile is public, every ‘tweet’ he uploads is visible to all 105 million people registered to the site.

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