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A social Budget: Part two

Rory Cellan-Jones | 15:03 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

1230: As the chancellor gets up Tweeting goes into overdrive. We are soon seeing nearly two Tweets a second using the #budget2010 hashtag.

But at first, like the early stages of the Budget speech, they are short on substance. Many are concentrating on the fact that the entire Labour front bench seems to be clad in purple.

1245: The first really newsworthy announcement in the Budget - that the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers is being raised to £250,000 - is greeted with huge cheers from the Labour benches, and instant rebuttal on Twitter. The Conservatives say they came up with this policy back in 2007.

1250: Labour tweeter @BevaniteEllie is very busy, giving instant headlines on the speech and cheering on her side:

"Guarantees honoured. Only with a Labour Government #budget"

1255: The news of higher alcohol duties brings an instant response on Twitter from the blogger Guido Fawkes:

"Party this weekend - booze taxes up midnight Sunday. Scottish Calvinist kill-joys."

1300: Tim Montgomerie, who runs the ConservativeHome blog, has put up a quick picture of the Tory front bench madly scribbling their response:

"Tory frontbench doing their #Budget2010 sums while Darling speaks"

1315: After the extra duty, "cider" is now a trending topic on Twitter.

1320: Aha, some technology news at last. High speed broadband gets a mention, with the 50p landline tax to fund it - but will that actually make it into law before the election? Then something unexpected - a promise of help to the video games sector, similar to what's on offer to the film industry.

The Labour MP Tom Watson, who's fought some of his colleagues on the issue of whether video games are bad for you and founded the Facebook "gamers' voice" group, is in celebratory mood:

"Gamers' voice members, TIGA, ELSPA - you did it! Video games tax relief. Well done."

Mind you, campaigners concerned about the impact of the government's Digital Economy Bill, are already on Twitter dismissing these hi-tech Budget measures as irrelevant. They're planning a real-world demo at Westminster this evening.

1330: The chancellor sits down. And David Cameron gets up immediately with the accusation that policies on the stamp duty holiday, the extra duty on cider, and funding for extra university places are simply copies of what his party proposed.

Tweeting is still happening at a very rapid rate, with Tory supporters keen to echo their leader's charges.

The Conservative leader seems to think that his Labour opponents are a bit distracted, accusing them of looking at their blackberries rather than paying attention. Perhaps they were all on Twitter?

1340: A Facebook group called Leave Our Cider Alone has already been created. Behold the wonders of the fast-moving social media world.

1400: We have fed the text of Alistair Darling's Budget speech into a clever visualisation tool called Wordle, which shows which words were most prominent. Our first effort showed the words "Deputy" and "Speaker" looming large, so we cut them out and came up with this.

Budget Wordle

So the Budget was all about "economy", "Budget", "recession", "recovery" and "businesses", amongst other words. I searched long and hard to find one word, "deficit" - and found it eventually in very small type on the far right hand corner of the picture.

So was it a social media budget? Well Tweetminster tell me there were a total of 11,132 tweets during the speech, averaging 2.29 tweets per second. But what's more interesting than the sheer volume is the way these new tools allow the parties - and the voters - to respond instantly.

And what do they care about? The price of cider, apparently. Although as the Budget is dissected by eager pressure groups some other even more pressing issues, hidden deep in the details, may emerge.


  • Comment number 1.

    Speaking of a social election, I can't wait to see what the result of the ORG organised protest outside of the House of Commons today is.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why are you reporting this? Anyone using Twitter is using it for their own ends. If I wanted to read what any of these self publicists is campaigning for on Twitter I can do that for myself.

  • Comment number 3.

    Because andrew, according to the BBC it isn't tech related if it doesn't have Twitter in it.

  • Comment number 4.

    Am I the only one who doesnt get anything from these 'Wordles'? It seems the most common words were 'per', 'cent', and 'year'. Shocking.

  • Comment number 5.


    Does anyone else think new media is really advertising? VCs have poured money in thinking it is media with no production costs but really what they are investing in is an advertising network which is all ads and no content. Worthless in other words.

    What Rory is doing here is just quoting the equivalent of press releases put out by middlemen. If you are going to curate press releases what is the point of a middle layer, why not go the the source?


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