Meet TikTok councillor aiming to make Cambridgeshire politics more fun
Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Cllr Alex Bulat/TikTok
Can you get people interested in local government through TikTok? The answer appears to be yes as one Cambridgeshire councillor is proving.
Many politicians in the county already use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but Councillor Alex Bulat has also branched out to TikTok.
Cllr Bulat has been using the platform to share short videos, often with a light hearted or humorous take, on life as a councillor.
“Some videos are just meant to be informative – what do I think about a particular campaign, or something to do with immigration,” she said.
“I like getting the information to a different audience, I think that is really important.”
From reading council documents that stretch into the hundreds of pages, anecdotes about election campaigning, Cllr Bulat has begun to build a following.
Her account has over 1,700 followers and some of her videos have been viewed thousands of times, with her most watched video currently having over 159,000 views.
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Cllr Bulat, who was elected to Cambridgeshire County Council in 2021 and was the first Romanian county councillor to be elected in the UK, said she wants to make politics more accessible and reach a variety of people.
“Sometimes we do something in local politics and we put out a press release or put out something on the council website,” she said.
“I also think it’s making politics a bit more accessible and I think it is really important to have those videos to just show the diversity of local councillors.”
Cllr Bulat said there is no strategy to what she posts, but explained she will make a quick video when she has the time and an idea.
She explained that for one of her videos, she was waiting for a bus to travel from Fulbourn to Abbey in Cambridge when she saw on a map that it would take 52 minutes to walk or 51 minutes to take the bus.
She said: “It was a bit like a silly video, but in a way that speaks to a broader point about the state of public transport in Cambridge.”
Cllr Bulat said she thinks there is a benefit of making points in a more light hearted way, especially to the younger TikTok audience.
“I think people have different views on TikTok,” said Cllr Bulat.
“One time when I posted something on Twitter someone said ‘oh she should be serious about the issues; you are a councillor you should just treat it very seriously’.
“At the same time, I think as people in local politics, or national politics, you have to speak with different audiences.
“Especially when speaking about topics like immigration or voting rights you do target a very different audience on TikTok than you do having a Facebook page, or the various neighbourhood apps.”
Cllr Bulat says there is a need to speak to younger audiences through TikTok, too.
“Often there is an advantage of having very serious points,” she said.
“For example, the fact that the buses are not very great in Cambridge, or various points about what councillors do in the everyday role, in a more fun and lighter way to process.”
There has been a lot of positive reaction to Cllr Bulat’s videos, such as on one video about voter registration, where a viewer commented they were not aware that they were eligible to vote.
Cllr Bulat explained that she has also received positive responses from people living in Cambridgeshire to her videos about a day in the life of a councillor.
“I got a couple comments from residents actually saying it is good that you have those videos because it kind of brings the local councillors life a bit closer to the public,” she recalled.
“People can have this idea about local councillors in shiny chambers and they make decisions about you without actually engaging.
“It shows them I’m a normal person who is doing a job and I’m doing my council job.”
Cllr Bulat also highlighted responses she received to her video she posted shortly after being elected as a county councillor, which is her highest viewed video.
She said: “There were younger Romanians who said they wanted to be involved in politics, I got quite a lot of nice interaction out of that one.
“Of course, there were some negative comments as well, but I got quite a significant number who got in touch and said they were interested in getting more involved in local politics, which I thought was great.”
However, alongside these comments, there have also been those who have been less positive.
In a few cases, Cllr Bulat responded to the comments with humour and she explained that her views have changed over time on how to deal with these comments.
Cllr Bulat said: “When I had just moved to the UK, over nine years ago now, and I got some negative comments because of me not being born in the UK, I got really upset.
“Your natural reaction is you get very upset and you can get very defensive, you try to explain yourself and say ‘well actually I live here’, you justify your existence."
Cllr Bulat admitted it takes confidence in getting used to certain comments, but is keen not to underestimate people’s views.
“There are people who say you shouldn’t engage with trolls or with people making those negative comments, but I also don’t believe that everyone who comments negatively about immigration is just there to troll,” she said.
“I think they are people who genuinely have negative views on immigration.
“I think we need to challenge when we see racism or xenophobia happening around us, and not just dismiss it because they are real people who do have negative views.
“I think my views have changed over time from being very defensive about it and very upset about it, to actually after you get many negative comments, you think ‘well let’s address the topic’.”
You can visit Cllr Bulat’s TikTok page here: https://www.tiktok.com/@dralexb