Friday, 15 December 2017

Top 100 Tweeting Politics Commentators 2017

The end of the year just isn't the end of the year without huge lists taking stock of all and sundry. And as per tradition, well, since 2009 anyway, here's the list no one pines for nor cares about: the most popular commentators on UK politics by number of followers on that there Twitter.

I recognise you might be among those who haven't encountered this annual festivity before, so let's get the basics down. This list is not a best of. I repeat, this list is not a best of. There are loads of people listed below who range from mediocre to off-the-scale bammery, but that matters not. The folks are known for political comment and coverage, and are arranged by the numbers of Twitter users they pull in their train. Needless to say, it can't be as simple as that - and indeed, it isn't. Sitting politicians are excluded, in case you were wondering where Nigel Farage or Dan Hannan was. The inclusion criteria also demands they cover UK politics, hence the disappearance of Louise Mensch and Mehdi Hasan from this year's list, as well as the non-inclusion of that Prison Planet moron. I've also got more stringent in terms of what people do: they have to regularly produce content outside of Twitter (so long Katie Hopkins, Eoin Clarke and Alan Rusbridger). And, as this is a list of tweeters, they've got to, well, tweet. It's been over a month since Janan Ganesh, for instance, last tossed 140 or so characters into the void, and so off he goes. Also 2016's top two, Russell Brand and Piers Morgan have been banished as politics ain't their mojo for the time being. Which is okay, because it leaves room for whom that is the case. Lastly, if you or your favorite tweeting politics sleb has fewer than 52,300 followers, your name's not down and you're not coming in.

Naturally, I do it for the clickbait. At least, that's how it started. But then it evolved into something else, a tracking of the gradual decline of the independent blogger and a total take over of mainstream comment by journalists and/or other comment professionals, if such a thing can ever be the right term. I mean, even I was on there in the beginning. Anyway, that's enough from me - analysis of the list comes further down. Here are the goods. How did you/your favourite(s) do?

1. (3) Jon Snow (1.28m followers)
2. (4) Robert Peston (890k followers)
3. (5) Nick Robinson (826k followers)
4. (8) Laura Kuenssberg (753k followers)
5. (7) Andrew Neil (744k followers)
6. (9) Owen Jones (724k followers)
7. (14) Paul Mason (571k followers)
8. (11) Krishnan Guru-Murthy (510k followers)
9. (10) Evan Davis (487k followers)
10. (12) Alastair Campbell (422k followers)
11. (13) Kay Burley (393k followers)
12. (15) Andrew Rawnsley (386k followers)
13. (NE) George Galloway (274k followers)
14. (28) James O'Brien (253k followers)
15. (18) Guido Fawkes (242k followers)
16. (20) Faisal Islam (236k followers)
17. (NE) George Osborne (228k followers)
18. (53) Jamie Ross (213k followers)
19. (21) George Monbiot (200k followers)
20. (72) Jim Waterson (199k followers)
21. (23) Fraser Nelson (185k followers)
22. (29) Maajid Nawaz (177k followers)
23. (22) Laurie Penny (173k followers)
24. (30) Mary Beard (167k followers)
25. (25) Michael Crick (165k followers)
26. (41) Britain Elects (164k followers)
27. (NE) Marina Hyde (158k followers)
28. (27) Cathy Newman (157k followers)
29. (24) Polly Toynbee (154k followers)
30. (NE) Harry Leslie Smith (150k followers)
31. (26) Mark Steel (150k followers)
32. (31) Kevin Maguire (145k followers)
33. (33) Tim Montgomerie (136k followers)
34. (40) Hadley Freeman (131k followers)
35. (34) Paul Waugh (124k followers)
36. (NE) David Allen Green (123k followers)
37. (36) Adam Boulton (123k followers)
38. (39) Isabel Hardman (122k followers)
39. (46) Hugo Rifkind (119k followers)
40. (42) Jack Monroe (117k followers)
41. (37) David Aaronovitch (111k followers)
42. (59) Douglas Murray (109k followers)
43. (43) Iain Dale (106k followers)
44. (NE) Norman Smith (102k followers)
45. (38) Aditya Chakrabortty (101k followers)
46. (50) Sophy Ridge (101k followers)
47. (45) John Rentoul (101k followers)
48. (51) Emily Maitlis (99.9k followers)
49. (49) Dan Hodges (96.3k followers)
50. (NE) Andrew Marr (96k followers)
51. (55) Nick Ferrari (95.7k followers)
52. (44) Will Black (91.5k followers)
53. (69) Artist Taxi Driver (90.5k followers)
54. (66) Julia Hartley-Brewer (90.1k followers)
55. (47) Jonathan Freedland (89.8k followers)
56. (NE) The Conversation (88.7k followers)
57. (NE) Scientists for EU (86.1k followers)
58. (89) Tom Newton Dunn (85.6k followers)
59. (71) Isabel Oakeshott (83.5k followers)
60. (61) Nick Cohen (81.9k followers)
61. (NE) Ian Dunt (80.5k followers)
62. (76) Tim Shipman (80.4k followers)
63. (48) Fleet Street Fox (80.2k followers)
64. (68) Helen Lewis (78.7k followers)
65. (NE) The Media Blog (76.5k followers)
66. (52) Peter Tatchell (76.4k followers)
67. (63) Harry Cole (72.9k followers)
68. (57) Patrick Wintour (72.1k followers)
69. (85) Gary Younge (71.7k followers)
70. (54) Sunny Hundal (70.6k followers)
71. (58) 38 Degrees (70.4k followers)
72. (79) Conservative Home (69.8k followers)
73. (NE) Jolyon Maugham (68.7k followers)
74. (88) George Eaton (68.5k followers)
75. (62) Zoe Williams (66k followers)
76. (56) Will Self (65.9k followers)
77. (67) Andrew Sparrow (65.6k followers)
78. (60) Left Foot Forward (65.5k followers)
79. (91) Sam Coates (65.3k followers)
80. (NE) hrtbps (64.9k followers)
81. (73) Gideon Rachman (64.3k followers)
82. (70) Suzanne Moore (64.3k followers)
83. (74) Toby Young (64.3k followers)
84. (77) British Politics and Policy at LSE (63.9k followers)
85. (80) James Landale (63.6k followers)
86. (NE) Camilla Long (62.7k followers)
87. (81) John Pienaar (62.1k followers)
88. (78) LabourList (60.7k followers)
89. (94) Danny Blanchflower (60.7k followers)
90. (NE) Abi Wilkinson (60.4k followers)
91. (82) Gaby Hinsliff (60.2k followers)
92. (75) New Economics Foundation (59.9k followers)
93. (NE) The London Economic (58.8k followers)
94. (86) Open Democracy (58.2k followers)
95. (93) Bonnie Greer (56.6k followers)
96. (83) Janet Street-Porter (56.2k followers)
97. (96) Iain Martin (55.5k followers)
98. (84) Allegra Stratton (54.7k followers)
99. (99) Chris Mason (54.4k followers)
100. (NE) Lionel Barber (53.6k followers)

Phew! Now, what can we say? How about 16 new entries for our pains? That compares with nine on last year's chart, but let's not pretend we're seeing a dynamically shifting group of people here. There is an establishment in political comment, and they're largely untouched by insurgents. For instance, despite the panic attending the rise of the so-called alt-left blogs, only one of them squeezes onto the list (our friends The Canary are perched at 99). The only others to buck the trend are representatives from previous disruptors Buzzfeed. Jamie Ross powers 34 places up the chart while Jim Waterson climbs an incredible 51 slots. Stephen Bush and Abi Wilkinson are deserved new arrivals, but notable in the upper fifth are the crashing in of George Osborne and George Galloway. Who needs a seat in Parliament when a prize such as getting included here awaits outside?

Previous years have proved an occasion for checking how representative our leading commentators are, and they have often been found wanting. This year sees 23 women, one non-binary person, 64 men, and 12 group efforts comprising the chart. The figures last year were 22 women, one non-binary person, 63 gents and 14 groups. Practically static! How are we looking at the ethnicity splits? Excluding group blogs, eight of our list have a BME background, down by two on last year's figures. For LGBT, again excluding groups, I make it six - just like last time. You might say the latter two tallies are proportional(ish) with the wider population, but the gender balance is off by a country mile. And progress is painfully slow. In 2009 this list had a looser criterion, but even in the "golden age" of blogging only 13 women were on the original list. Clearly more needs to be done and it behooves media organisations to start pushing more women to the fore.

The points made last year still stand. Permit me the indulgence of quoting myself because I can't be arsed to paraphrase: "it is not and cannot be a good thing that politics commentary is dominated by a narrow range of people with broadly similar backgrounds and broadly similar life experiences. It means discussion and debate across our media is framed in particular ways, its preoccupations conditioned by shared values and stakes of an increasingly narrowly circumscribed field. News stories outside the experience of most are seldom accorded the importance they deserve. It also follows the kinds of biases exercising the Faragists and Corbynists are not systematic conspiracy, but a consequence of a narrow media that's incredibly difficult for outsiders to break into."

Twitter therefore stands as an imperfect, crude but nevertheless useful way of measuring standing among the commentary pantheon, at least where audiences are concerned. It is no accident the people who dominate this list are people enjoying huge platforms provided by the established broadcast and print media.

Okay, there's your comment list for the year. List mania returns on New Year's Day with the top 100 independent tweeting politics bloggers, assuming there are enough indies left! If there is anyone missing do let me know in the comments and I'll update it. But remember, it's not a best of list!

Update: Jim observed that Danny Finkelstein, or Lord Finkelstein to us mortals had somehow survived the no-sitting-politician rule. Well, no longer, he's off the list. As we bid him adieu, three more make their presence felt - the BBC's Norman Smith at 44, The Conversation and Scientists for EU, which clamber aboard at 55 and 56 respectively. Not only does this please me as a completionist, it also means Toby Young is forced down a couple more places. Coming in lower down at 96 we see Lionel Barber of the FT joining the party. Sadly, it does mean Bella Caledonia, The Spectator's Coffee House blog, and Michael White take a tumble. Perhaps they'll be back this time next year?

2018 Update A couple more revisions, alas. The Canary, Wings Over Scotland and Stephen Bush have dropped off the list to make room for Ian Dunt, Camilla Long and the London Economic, another "alt-left" blog that hasn't had the same prominence as the Canary but has a more effective Twitter strategy. At least its presence on this list seems to suggest that.


RevStu said...

As the only all-Scottish blogger on the list, I feel like my number of followers should be weighted accordingly on a per-head-of-population basis, ie multiplied by 12, which would make me 7th.


Phil said...

Nice try, Stu :)