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Newspapers join forces with Twitter to host election hustings

Two regional newspapers teamed up with Twitter to host hustings events where readers quizzed candidates standing for election.

The Birmingham Mail and the Camden New Journal each hosted online debates through the social network as part of Twitter’s General Election Roadshow.

At the Mail’s event, candidates for the keenly-contested Yardley constituency attended the paper’s Fort Dunlop headquarters to be asked questions by readers using the hashtag #yardleydebate.

And the Camden New Journal’s hustings saw candidates for another hotly-contested seat, Hampstead and Kilburn, quizzed by local people under the hashtag #hkdebate.

The election candidates for Yardley take part in the online Twitter debate.

The election candidates for Yardley take part in the online Twitter debate.

At the hustings events, questions were tweeted to candidates who then responded via the social network, followed by an open discussion using questions sourced from Twitter.

Richard Osley, deputy editor at the Camden New Journal, said: “When Twitter came to us and suggested the idea of holding some online hustings, we jumped up the chance to give readers the chance to quiz the candidates.

“We were deluged with questions on the day and the nature of the format meant the politicians had to cut out the waffle and get straight to the point.

“We are open to trying out as many different ways to get readers engaged in the election as possible and we are delighted with the feedback so far.

“We’d thank Twitter for helping to organise the event, the candidates for being good sports – even when they were put on the spot and asked to name their favourite restaurant – and of course the readers for getting involved.”

Twitter’s election roadshow was created to help politicians effectively engage their constituents through social media.

It has also seen workshops delivered to local media about covering the election, including at Johnston Press newspapers and at Glasgow-based The Herald.

Joanna Geary, Twitter’s head of news and government partnerships, said: “With voters and political parties increasingly harnessing the power of Twitter for political discourse and information sharing, 2015 has become the UK’s first true Twitter Election.”

More than three-quarters of UK MPs are on Twitter and the social network has more than 15m users across the UK.