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Influential friends?How much do MPs promote charities via their websites and Twitter feeds?

Samiksha Rai and Joe Saxton

September 2022


Introduction

Some charities have come in for a tough time from politicians in recent years – whether it’s the National Trust, RNLI or Oxfam. But these are the big high-profile charities. Which charities are getting support from MPs at the constituency level or in support of their campaigns? We looked at ten MPs, a mix of Conservative and Labour, and how they mention charities, positively and negatively, in their social media, and constituency websites.


Methodology


This report is based on research conducted on the websites and Twitter accounts of ten MPs (five Conservative and five Labour) between April and July of 2022. We focused on individual MPs’ websites and Twitter accounts because most MPs had both. Links to each are given below alongside the list of MPs researched.


This is very much a qualitative analysis given the small sample size. We wanted to see how time-consuming and difficult the research process was. We are also aware that inevitably with a small sample like this the results are highly dependent on who is in the sample. We have drawn some observations, rather than generalisations.


Lastly please beware that the research is a human process and the content of websites and social media sites changes rapidly. We have done our best to ensure accuracy but if you are aware of any errors or have any questions, please contact Samiksha Rai on joe@heyheyjoe.info


Summary of website & Twitter mentions


The table below uses a point system to show the average number of mentions by party. Each charity mention on their website and Twitter is marked by one point. Repeated mentions of the same charity are marked a point. Whilst bearing in mind the small sample size, this suggests that Tory MPs may be more likely than Labour MPs to mention charities on both their websites and Twitter. It would require a larger sample size to see whether the MPs here are representative of the whole.



What can we learn from this analysis?


Overall, the MPs researched mentioned charities positively on a national level as well as within their constituencies. MPs that support particular campaigns have often lobbied for them in Parliament and helped with fundraising within their constituencies. Some MPs support causes but have not mentioned charities directly. We also found that MPs retweet causes they are not directly involved with, but support. MPs also mention charities that they actively campaign for on their constituency websites.


Additional observations, albeit based on a small sample:

  • Conservative MPs are more likely to mention charities than Labour MPs both on their websites, and in their Twitter feeds. This is despite the prevailing wisdom that Conservative MPs are more hostile to charities than Labour MPs.

  • Part of the reason for this is that Conservative MPs mention and support local charities more often than national ones. This is why we say it’s worth looking beyond the broad perception that charities often have, of Conservatives being hostile towards charities, to look at the specifics of what an MP is interested in, and might support.

  • Twitter is used most widely as a platform for communicating about charities (and everything else, though we couldn’t find a Twitter account for all of the MPs in the sample) compared to other forms of social media or MPs’ own websites. Perhaps more importantly, a website mention by an MP tends to indicate a more lasting indicator of support, while Twitter mentions can be very transitory. However, it seems plausible that far more people are likely to see a Tweet compared to the average constituency website.

  • The mention of charities by different MPs is very ‘lumpy’! In other words some MPs (in this analysis Andrew Mitchell, Roger Gale and Jess Philips) mention charities a lot, and others hardly or not at all (e.g. Andrew Bridgen, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn).

  • Some MPs mention causes, without mentioning specific charities. This may be frustrating for the charities involved, especially if they spent months planning a campaign to build awareness. It’s probably worth planning how to get MPs to tweet what you’d like them to tweet!


The specifics for each MP in the analysis


Conservative

Mark Jenkinson MP for Workington


Mark Jenkinson is actively involved in promoting the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria and the surrounding regions through his support for The Lifescape Project, an ecosystem restoration and rewilding charity.


Website mentions (https://www.mark-jenkinson.co.uk/)

  • Webpage ‘About Mark Jenkinson’ describes him as ‘a former charity trustee and school governor. He was incredibly active at a grassroots level, often organising clean-up days in his village … traits [which] haven’t left him as he continues to organise clean up days around the constituency’

  • He actively campaigns for The Lifescape Project

  • Mark Jenkinson backed a local charity The Freedom Project West Cumbria by placing a £50 charity bet on the 2022 Grand National.

Twitter mentions (https://Twitter.com/markjenkinsonmp)

  • Retweeted posts from RSPB, NDCS

  • Retweeted #PrideInLondon celebrating 50 years of Pride

  • Mentioned Opera Bingo house in Workington who celebrated National Bingo Day. They raised money for DEC’s Ukraine appeal

  • Mentioned Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw positively for helping young people and their families in Cumbria

  • Mentioned Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust promoting Cervical Screening Awareness week


Andrew Bridgen MP for North West Leicestershire


We could not find mentions of any charities, local or high-profile, on his website or Twitter account in the past three months, except the one listed below.


Website Mentions (https://www.andrewbridgen.com/)

  • Mentions working with Bowel Cancer UK to improve early diagnosis, and access to treatment and care, both in North West Leicestershire and nationally

  • No mentions of charities in the last three months


Roger Gale MP for North Thanet (Margate, Herne Bay and The Villages)


Roger Gale actively promotes animal welfare charities on his website and his Twitter account. He often tweets support for charities such as Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Animals Worldwide. He has also shown support for Fourpaws, RSPCA and Battersea. In addition to supporting animal welfare charities, he has shown support for some cancer charities.


Website mentions (https://www.rogergale.com/)

  • Supports two charities on his website

  1. https://www.conservativeanimalwelfarefoundation.org

  2. https://www.animalsworldwide.org


  • Tweeted Dogs Trusts’ advice for dog owners for the hot weather

  • Re-tweeted support for Breast Cancer Now

  • Retweeted his support for Wildheart trust with their #servival campaign

  • Retweeted Conservative Animal Welfare Foundations mention of himself debating on ending cages for farmed animals

  • Retweeted his support for Fourpaws, RSPCA’s reception in Parliament urging the government to protect animal welfare standards in UK trade policy and his support for rescue dogs

  • Retweeted his support for rescue dogs at the Battersea reception in the House of Commons

  • Retweeted support for Breast Cancer Now

  • Mentioned Focus on Melanoma and their #knowyourskin campaign

  • Mentions his patronage for the following charities Compassion in World farming, the RSPCA, The League Against Cruel Sports and Humane Society International

  • Mentions fundraising for Demelza House Children’s hospice

  • Mentions Taxi Charity


Andrew Mitchell MP for The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield


Andrew Mitchell’s weekly newsletters highlight his support for numerous charities in his constituency, including his visits to their fundraising events. He is more likely to mention charity work happening in his constituency rather than high-profile work by charities being done nationally.


  • He received an award from Water Aid for his support for its mission to increase people’s access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH)

  • Mentioned The FourOaks Tennis clubs’ annual fundraising event for Acorns Children’s Hospice

  • Mentioned Combined Midland Police’s initiative for fundraising for Young Lives vs Cancer

  • Mentioned Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust’s initiative to plant a tree to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee

  • Promoted Asda’s Green token scheme supporting Troop Aid, Boldmere St. Michael’s Football Club and Acacia Family Support

  • Promoted the work of Lisieux Trust after visiting one of the care homes

  • Promoted UNICEF’s soccer aid amongst Royal Town schools

  • Mentioned St. Basils Charity which is supported by the people of Sutton Coldfield due to its brilliant job in supporting young people off the streets and in to work

  • Mentioned Youth Sports Trust Children's charity


Twitter Mentions

  • No Twitter account


Steve Baker MP for Wycombe


Steve Baker supports Growing Hope High Wycombe charity, which offers therapy to children and young people with additional needs, both on his website and his Twitter account. In the past three months he has tweeted support for a number of national charities including those working on mental health, dementia, women in prison and the impacts of Covid-19.


Website mentions (https://www.stevebaker.info/)

  • Supports Growing Hope High Wycombe, a charity offering free therapy for children and young people with additional needs.


  • Supported Tesco’s food collection initiative with Foodshare UK and Trussell Trusts in Loudwater

  • Congratulated Samaritans for a successful cycle race

  • Mentioned Growing Hope High Wycombe

  • Mentioned on Twitter his donation to Inside Success UK, a social enterprise supporting young people to develop life skills and find employment

  • Joined Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on mental health

  • Attended Alzheimer’s societies, Dementia Action drop-in to learn even more about the disease and speak with those who are affected

  • Thanked Collateral Global for the work they do to cultivate a better understanding of the impact of Covid-19 responses internationally

  • Retweeted Antonia Romeo’s post regarding women in prison and Advance Charity, a national charity supporting those who have experienced domestic abuse and are in contact with the criminal justice system.


Labour


Jess Philips MP for Birmingham Yardley


Jess Philips supports charities supporting women and tackling domestic violence, as well as those working on different types of cancer and health issues. She has actively promoted a local charity SIFA Fireside helping homeless people and the #feedYardley campaign that supports food banks in her constituency.


Website mentions (http://www.jessphillips.net/)

  • Mentions SIFA Fireside visit

  • Promoted a #FeedYardley project by Arts in the Yard


Twitter mentions (https://Twitter.com/jessphillips)

  • Retweeted Holly Lynch’s tweet regarding her support for Asthma & Lung UK

  • Retweeted BPAS’s (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) tweet regarding their petition to the UK government to end the prosecution of two women looking to end their own pregnancy

  • Retweeted Teresa Parkers fundraising for Women’s Aid

  • Retweeted Victims Commissioners London’s tweet attending Women’s Aid’s #TwoYearsTooLong event

  • Retweeted support for fundraising for CLL Support

  • Mentioned Blood Cancer UK funding that helped create treatments that saved her father’s life

  • Mentioned her community for their recycling efforts and helping raise money for NSPCC

  • Retweeted SIFA Fireside for being announced as the Swan Shopping centres charity of the year

  • Mentioned meeting SIFA Fireside an organisation helping many constituents in Birmingham Yardley

  • Retweeted Fawcett Charity’s post on Twitter regarding domestic abuse and pregnant women

  • Mentioned Alzheimer's Society and having met a person with dementia at an event hosted in Parliament

  • Retweeted #BirminghamWalkathon supporting some charities while keeping healthy

  • Asked for support on her webpage for Arts in the Yard’s #FeedYardley campaign


Wes Streeting MP for Ilford North


In the past three months Wes Streeting has actively supported various LGBTQ campaigns through his Twitter feeds. He has promoted charities working for women and also showed his support for mental health and deaf awareness week.

  • No mention of charities in the last three months


Twitter mentions (https://Twitter.com/wesstreeting)

  • Re-tweeted LGBT+Labour’s #PrideinLondon day

  • Mentioned donating to Magic Breakfast, providing school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger in disadvantaged areas

  • Retweeted Sharon Hodgson’s mention of Target Ovarian Cancer Charities reception

  • Supports LGBTQ rights

  • Supports a woman's right to choose. Believes restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion puts women’s lives and safety at risk

  • Re-tweeted Keir Starmer’s post regarding supporting Loose Women to mark Arthritis Care awareness week

  • Supported Medical Aid Pal’s work on Twitter

  • Re-tweeted Keir Starmer’s support for Mental health awareness week

  • Re-tweeted Angela Rayner’s support for Deaf Awareness week on behalf of the Labour Party


Rachel Maskell MP for York Central


Rachel Maskell supports charities that work for children and actively campaign for children's social care policy in Parliament. She also tweeted about her involvement in a discussion with Age UK and RNIB regarding digital inclusion to tackle inequality in later life.


  • No mentions of charities in the last three months


  • Retweeted NPC’s mention of an essay by Rachel Maskell on 20 years of NPC

  • Retweeted Adoption UK’s post regarding Rachel’s support for adopted people at the launch of #adoptionbarometer22

  • Supports Children's Social care policy making

  • Supported Christian Aid week, fighting climate crisis and ending hunger

  • Mentioned The Stroke Associations’ event about research on the cognitive function she attended

  • Involved in a discussion with Age UK and RNIB regarding digital inclusion to tackle inequality in later life


Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North (currently suspended from the Labour party)


There wasn't much information available on Jeremy Corbyn’s website or Twitter from the last three months.


Website mentions (https://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/)

  • No mentions of charities in the last three months


Twitter mentions (https://Twitter.com/jeremycorbyn)

  • Supports Pride in London


Diane Abbott MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington


Dianne supports campaigns focused on Black women and children, as well as children’s charities more generally. She started and is actively involved in the initiative Conference for the Black child.


  • No mentions of charities in the last three months


Twitter mentions (https://Twitter.com/HackneyAbbott)

  • Numerous mentions of the anti-racism initiative she launched, Conference for the Black child

  • Supported Pride Month 2022

  • Re-tweeted support for charities working towards to ensure no child is priced out of citizenship (the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), Citizens UK, Amnesty UK)


Conclusion

This analysis suggests that MPs vary considerably in the extent and nature of their support for charities on their websites and Twitter accounts. . The detail of what different MPs support is as much about personal interest, as it is about party politics. It also shows the importance of getting support for an individual charity as much as the broader cause, if an organisation wants to boost its own awareness.


If this analysis is useful in any way, we may extend the sample to other MPs.


About Hey Hey Joe

Heyheyjoe.info is a website full of free information, ideas and information for people who run and love charities and non-profits, set up by Joe Saxton

There are blogs, vlogs, presentations, reports

All this and more at www.heyheyjoe.info

joe.saxton@btinternet.com

07976 329212



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