At the start of the week the undisputed biggest story of the moment was the Scottish independence referendum. What was previously a comfortable lead for No had been wiped out; one poll even showed Yes having taken the lead.
But then came the announcement that a second Royal Baby is on the way. There were the inevitable jokes and questions about what this meant for the outcome of the Indyref campaigns, but just what impact did it have on coverage of the referendum? Did it remain the biggest story?
Whilst the royal announcement briefly distracted from the referendum, overall Scotland remained the most tweeted about story.
There were only 47 tweets from politicians on the royal baby compared to 1265 on the referendum. Journalists showed more interest in the royal story, but tweets on the referendum still outnumbered tweets on the baby 2743 to 1350. As the graph below shows, royal baby tweets from journalists only briefly outnumbered referendum ones.
Tweets per hour from journalists, 8 Sep – 9 Sep
When the announcement was made at 10:30 on Monday, tweets about the royal baby hugely outnumbered those about the referendum. But just a few hours later, from 14:00 onwards, the referendum was tweeted about more and this is how it remained until the end of Tuesday. There was a big drop off after the initial announcement, from a peak of over 500 tweets in the first two hours to fewer than 50 an hour for most of the rest of the two days.
Following the morning news cycle on Tuesday, talk about the royal baby completely tailed off whereas tweets about the referendum increased when David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg announced they were skipping PMQs to go to Scotland.
The royal baby announcement may have created a lot of buzz initially, but it’s proved to only be a temporary distraction as the referendum gets ever closer.
This week’s reshuffle was the top issue in the final PMQs before the summer recess with questions from both Ed Miliband and the backbenches.
Miliband decided to focus on Michael Gove’s move from Education Secretary to Chief Whip but there was little reaction from MPs on Twitter to either this or women in the Cabinet.
In an exchange on the economy David Cameron accused Labour of wanting to raise taxes for middle earners. Several pundits on Twitter predicted this will be a common Conservative line in the run up to the election, unless Labour rule it out.
Ed Miliband returned to A&E waiting times after the House of Commons Library called David Cameron’s claims in PMQs last week ‘simplistic’. Cameron refused to admit fault, but it was widely felt by journalists that Miliband hadn’t landed the blows he might have.
Miliband also raised questions on recent alleged child abuse cases. Cameron’s view that it ‘may well be time’ to make failure to report abuse a crime drew particular attention on Twitter.
The NHS was the top issue in today’s PMQs with Ed Miliband particularly interested in access to cancer treatment. In response David Cameron was quick to bring up the Labour run NHS in Wales, but Miliband claimed he only wanted to talk about Wales because he didn’t want to talk about his record in England.
Several journalists saw this line of questioning as an attempt for Miliband to escape his troubles by focusing on Labour’s strongest issue.
Two questions on rent prices provoked a reaction on Twitter. Diane Abbott asked about tenants in her constituency facing steep increases and Jeremy Corbyn called for rent controls claiming “social cleansing is coming to London” because of high prices.
After a quiet PMQs last week MPs had more to tweet about today with Andy Coulson’s guilty verdict in the hacking trial.
Miliband used all his questions on Coulson pushing Cameron on his judgement and the vetting process at the time of the appointment. Cameron’s main defence was the findings of the Leveson Inquiry, which he repeatedly used in response to Miliband.
Towards the end of the session a question from Sir Gerald Howarth on Juncker and the European Commission presidency rallied Conservative backbenchers and ensured there were some tweets on something other than Coulson.
Iraq was the top issue in today’s PMQs with questions on the ongoing crisis from backbenchers as well as Ed Miliband. A range of factors in the current situation were covered including the problem of British militants, Iran’s position, and what aid is being given by Britain.
There was no shortage of tweets from journalists and commentators on Iraq, but MPs tweeted less about the issue. Labour in particular were quieter than usual especially during Cameron and Miliband’s exchange. They did however have a little more to say when Natascha Engel asked a question about NHS waiting times signalling the return of some partisan points scoring.
With the Queen’s Speech last week, today saw the first PMQs of this session. Ed Miliband split his questions between attacks on the Department for Education, following the row over extremism, and the Home Office after passport delays. The Labour party were clearly keen to push these issues hard in contrast to the Government whose MPs tweeted less than usual.
After heavy losses in the local and European elections, and speculation about Nick Clegg’s leadership, Liberal Democrat MPs have been the most vocal on Twitter about the Queen’s Speech.
This is a reversal of what we usually see at parliamentary events, with the coalition partners tweeting the most and Labour being the quieter party. The Lib Dems seem to be making a conscious effort on Twitter today after a difficult few weeks.
The top issues in the speech were the pension bills, childcare reforms, and right of recall.