Are Denis MacShane's Tweets taking the place of pounding the streets?

THERE’S a new battleground in the race for Westminster in 2010

General elections have been won and lost since the internet arrived, but never have sites like Facebook and Twitter played such a crucial role in vote-grabbing.

Young people on Facebook were reminded to register to vote in a campaign by the Electoral Commission.

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And it seems to have worked, with 40 per cent of the thousands of late sign-ups over the past few weeks aged between 18 and 25.

The web has undoubtedly helped capture a new audience for politics, but there are real risks for politicians too.

Scottish Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan was sacked after becoming the first “

Twitter suicide” of this year’s campaign. He posted dozens of foul-mouthed rants, including sweary name-calling of politicians and celebs.

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Closer to home, a few of our Rotherham candidates are employing Twitter to spread the message behind the colour of their rosette.

Rother Valley candidate Kevin Barron has dodged both the advantages and the risks signing up, but has kept an eye on his rivals’ posts.

His Labour colleague Denis MacShane is perhaps the borough’s most prolific Twitterer—when he’s here.

He’s been known to post a dozen messages an hour, but  he seems so confident of retaining his Rotherham seat that he hasn’t been out and about in Rotherham much.

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On Tuesday, he posted: “In Pudsey where Lib-Dem voters can gift seat to Tories,” and later: “Just spent hour in full lecture hall at Leeds Uni on Europe.”

While other candidates stomp the streets handing out leaflets until their feet ache and fingers bleed, it seems the good doctor’s re-election drive has its feet up already and a celebratory cigar lit.

But this wasn’t as evident in his piece on the Independent website on Monday.

Dr MacShane was writing about the Icelandic volcano ash cloud crisis, suggesting we needed a 2010 equivalent of the Berlin Airlift to help stranded European citizens home.

He admitted having a political interest, too, saying: “There are Labour voters from my constituency stranded and unable to return home.

“I need them back.”