Concerns have been raised after the @MayorOfLondon Twitter account was switched to a campaign account now known as @borisjohnson.
The official election period began today, so to avoid any appearance that @MayorOfLondon was being misused to drum up support for the incumbent, the name was changed. A tweet was also posted stating that City Hall resources would not be used and all updates were coming from the Back Boris 2012 team. (Boris’s team were warned about using the @MayorOfLondon account for party political purposes back in 2009.)
However, the relative newness of Twitter still leaves some grey areas. Is it right for an account that built up 250,000 followers as a City Hall account (it’s linked to from Boris’s GLA page) to be turned over to an election campaign? Would it have been truer to the spirit of election rules for @MayorOfLondon to fall silent during the campaign, leaving @BackBoris2012 to do the shouting? What this really hinges on is whether changing a Twitter name turns an account into an entirely new one, just with the same followers and tweet history. Etiquette minefield.
Len Duvall, leader of Labour’s London Assembly group, has put in an official complaint to the monitoring officer, based on the understanding that the account belongs to and has been maintained by GLA resources. (Though we should remember accusations that Ken Livingstone used GLA staff during his 2004 campaign.) We’ve asked City Hall what the status of the account is and are waiting for a response.
Update: A GLA spokesperson said
Boris Johnson has decided it would not be appropriate during the pre-election period for him to be tweeting as Mayor of London. He has therefore made it clear to all his followers that he will now be tweeting under his own name outside of City Hall. Anyone who no longer wishes to follow his tweets will be reminded repeatedly that they can unsubscribe with one click of the mouse. @mayoroflondon can be revived by whoever is elected on 3 May.
In the meantime, a new @MayorOfLondon account was created last night. We hope it was made by the Back Boris team to prevent squatters, otherwise the next Mayor might have a job getting it back.
Further update: the @BorisJohnson account later tweeted
though it came on the heels of an earlier tweet talking about his 9 Point Plan and linking to the campaign website.