Most of our exposure to politicians is tightly controlled. Any MPs let anywhere near a television camera seem to have been rigorously briefed to repeat meaningless slogans and to avoid letting anything like a personality shine through.
On Facebook, politicians seem different. Many have hobbies, interests and passions that extend beyond the narrow prism of party politics. A number of them don’t even have private profiles. Browsing through their friend lists, page "likes" and niche interest groups, VICE has discovered a different side to our elected representatives.
Here’s what we learned.
John Whittingdale likes a "sugar daddy" dating site
It's a genuine shame most politicians feel the need to hide their personalities and interests. But if, like former culture secretary and Tory MP John Whittingdale, those interests include sugardaddie.com, a dating site which connects wealthy older men to attractive young women, it’s probably best to keep that on lockdown. The posts, likely to have appeared in Whittingdale's news feed, have included a guide to dating "insecure" women and "Why Men Seek a Trophy Girlfriend". Whittingdale declined to comment, but he has since made his Facebook likes private.
In 2013, Whittingdale had a six-month relationship with a woman who worked in a brothel. He claimed he met the woman online and did not realise what her job was, and that he broke up with her after he found out.
Many Labour MPs are members of tribal anti-Tory Facebook groups
Earlier this year, newly elected Labour MP Laura Pidcock sparked controversy when she said she had "absolutely no intention of being friends" with any Tories. In fairness, she’s not the only one. At least seven Labour MPs have subscribed to updates from a page titled "Nobody likes a Tory". Catherine West is a fan of "No to Tory scum", while Lyn Brown is a member of "We hate Iain Duncan Smith – The Minister for Manslaughter".
Lyn Brown’s office told VICE she had no recollection of joining the group and has now left. West said: "I do not ever recall ever 'liking' this page, and scanning through the content of its news feed I do not support much language or tone used in its content." She added that she may have liked the page inadvertently and has now un-liked the account. "Whilst I have campaigned against the policies of the Tories for many years, I have done so in a way that is passionate but most importantly respectful and considered," she said.
And Tory MPs are part of racist anti-Labour groups
It’s not just Labour. Tory MPs Ross Thomson and Michelle Donelan subscribe to "Labour Party Exposed", a page which describes the workers’ party as comprising "liars, traitors and pedophilia". It includes several posts comparing Labour figures to Nazis, and one recent post where Diane Abbot's face has been photoshopped to make her nose and lips look bigger, and pasted onto a "race card". Thomson previously criticised Labour MP Jared O'Mara for the "deeply offensive & ignorant comments" he had made on his Facebook page, while Donelan questioned the prime minister on what more can be done to stamp out racial hatred in politics.
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservative party said Thomson "does not endorse in any way the views contained in the posts that have been highlighted". Michelle Donelan did not respond to a requests for comment.
Andrew Rosindell likes "Bin The Labour Party", a page "for like-minded Brits who despise Labour". Rosindell’s office told VICE to take that "with a pinch of salt", adding that the Tory MP has "lots of Labour friends" and "likes Jeremy Corbyn, personally".
Supposedly pro-May MPs think Boris Johnson is PM material
Wendy Morton – who was recently appointed assistant government whip, and wrote a blog post last year entitled "Why Theresa May Will Make a Great Prime Minister" – is a member of the group "Boris Johnson for British Prime Minister". So is Michelle Donelan – another Tory MP who has publicly backed May. Neither responded to requests for comment.
Still, at least one MP is resolutely on-brand: Labour MP Ivan Lewis is one of nine committed members of "Friends Who Like Ivan Lewis for Mayor".
They crave "likes" as much as the rest of us
MPs are as thirsty for notifications as anyone else. They post career highlights such as "First time at the Dispatch Box", and update their job titles when they’ve been made a cabinet minister – and then again for sympathy likes when they’re fired a few months later. They "check-in" at the House of Commons and the Strangers Bar. They share photos of themselves with celebrities (if you count Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as celebrities). Some even subscribe to clickbait groups like "See Who Visited Your Profile" – hello there, Christopher Davies, Conservative MP for Brecon & Radnorshire!
Brexiteer MPs love Churchill, 'Top Gear' and Disney
You can spot a Brexiteer instantly based solely on their Facebook page. Take Jack Lopresti, a Tory MP who calls his son Brexit because he was born on the day Article 50 was triggered. His Facebook likes? Winston Churchill, Richard "Hamster" Hammond and Proud to be British. Or Damien Moore, who likes British Monarchy Lovers, Prince Harry and The Iron Lady.
And there’s another common interest linking Brexiteers Andrew Rosindell and Ross Thomson: both appear to be serious Disney fans. Perhaps that explains their optimism about happy endings.
There’s an old skool raver in the Commons
Judging by Facebook, most MPs aren’t huge music fans. Labour MPs like Billy Bragg. Tories like Vivaldi. Everyone loves Dusty Springfield. But there are no hard and fast rules. Chuka Umunna is well known for his days as a UK garage DJ, but who knew Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson was an old skool raver? Tomlinson was a nightclub manager in Swindon before becoming an MP and remains a Facebook fan of Slammin’ Vinyl, Fantazia, Altern8, Slipmatt and Ratpack. Meanwhile, Labour’s Richard Burgon is a metal fan who listens to bands including Pulverise, Dream Tröll, Krokodil and Sacred Reich (Noisey spoke to him about it last year).
MPs are real people
Sure, plenty of MPs' profiles confirm certain stereotypes. As a rule, Tory MPs love Margaret Thatcher and the military. Labour MPs? They tend to like unions and saving the NHS. But there were also some surprises. Tory MP Michelle Donelan is apparently a fan of WWE SmackDown; Labour deputy leader Tom Watson likes gaming; Iain Stewart is into model trains. And Steve Baker is a fan of extreme sports, which should serve him well in his role as minister for Exiting the European Union.
They all love The Thick of It
But, then, who doesn’t?