On Tuesday 18th April, Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to hold a snap election. This was much to the surprise of pretty much the whole of the UK, including Conservative MPs after the PM stated herself that a snap election was not in the country’s best interests with Brexit looming on the horizon. Nonetheless, the polling day was set for Thursday 8th June, leaving just 50 days for the political parties to fire out their manifestos and campaign the length and breadth of the country to spread their message.
Cue the political frenzy…
Of course, we have seen the classic campaigning across towns and cities all across the UK and the awkward door-to-door knocking of senior politicians. But something had to change this time around. In a ploy to ignite the attention of young people, who have been criticised for not exercising their democratic right, politics had to catch up with modern society. The trenches of political warfare would now have to be fought digitally.
The Conservative party, at the time of announcing the Snap election, thought they would absolutely coast home to an increased majority in Westminster. Who could blame them? The Labour party was in undoubtable disarray with infighting and big question marks surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. At the start of the campaigning, the Tory party held a huge 16 point lead over Corbyn’s Labour in the opinion polls; and bookmakers priced Labour as 50/1 no hope.
Labour would really need to switch up their tactics...
It seemed Labour’s hope rested on the young, 18-24 demographic vote who, for the most part were not considered politically engaged enough to understand what was actually going on, or as some would put it, too “lazy” to register and actually turn up to their local polling station. With just 44% of 18-24 people voting in the 2015 general election, Labour's hopes looked bleak and only added to Conservative optimism.
So, how could Jeremy Corbyn and Labour get the hundreds of thousands of young people who are missing off the electorate, registered and out voting for Labour?
Firstly, you need to look at where you can reach these potential young voters. Secondly, you need to look at who these young voters will actually listen to. Labour put the two together and came up with the solution; social media and micro influencers. Grime artist and Twitter icon, JME set out on a crusade alongside Jeremy Corbyn and other fellow underground artists such as Stormzy, getting more and more young people registered to vote and politically engaged. JME was working overtime, with hourly reminders to register before the 22nd May deadline, in his humorous, engaging style of Tweets.
Within no time, young people were sitting up and taking notice. On 6th June, it was reported by the BBC that 1 million extra voters were on the electorate from 2015’s election. Certainly proof, if needed, that Labour's digital approach was not only working but was very effective. Young people were not only registering to vote in droves, but also joining in discussions and becoming politically engaged across the breadth of social media. This was not because Jeremy Corbyn, but because their idols were telling them to do so.
No stone was left unturned when it came to social media. We were bombarded with sponsored posts from all parties across all main social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Speeches, rallies and Q&A's with political leaders were regularly broadcast across Facebook live, Periscope and Snapchat.
There was also General Election first, with both Labour and the Conservative party advertising on Snapchat, highlighting both parties’ intentions of having a successful digital strategy. Snapchat boasts 161 active daily users, an invaluable asset with its under 25 demographic opening the app more than 20 times per day.
Perhaps the biggest election scandal and one of the main reasons behind Labour’s surge in the opinion polls was Theresa May’s self proclaimed Dementia Tax policy. It was undoubtedly a PR disaster for the Tory party, with Theresa May having to come out in public and pull a u-turn on the policy.
It had gotten to the point where the Tory party was bidding on the phrase ‘What Is Dementia Tax?’, hoping to snare people who were searching information on the policy, with of course biased and unhelpful information - seemingly trying to cover and rectify the issue.
As the image below shows, it wasn’t long before Labour launched its own AdWords counter-campaign, with its own take on the ‘Dementia Tax’. Of course, this was another General Election first; two political parties vying for power of Downing Street were engaged in a PPC war.
The Result: Hung Parliament
There we have it. The Conservative’s Westminster majority has been decimated. It has to be said that the massive youth turnout, estimated to be as high as 72%, undoubtedly worked in Labour's favour to help make a historical impact on the election. A digital strategy that began with utilising social media influencers to drive votes, right through to Snapchat ads aimed at these young voters on polling day, ultimately paid off.
While the UK’s political landscape is faced with even more uncertainty, only one thing remains certain: digital is the future of drumming up political momentum and engagement, and we will certainly see it playing an even bigger part in political campaigning and strategies in the future.