In 2015, their digital operation seemed formidable. Now, it's anything but. What happened—and can they ever put it right?by Marie Le Conte / January 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
In a move that felt too on the nose not to be satire, transport secretary Chris Grayling was chairman of the Conservative party for around 27 seconds on Monday—promptly losing the job again when an apparently mis-posted announcement from Conservative Campaign Headquarters was deleted from Twitter.
“It’s like CCHQ is trying to signal the desperate need for its own reform,” joked Mark Wallace, the executive editor of Conservative Home.
It was later announced that policing minister Brandon Lewis would be the one heading to 4 Matthew Parker Street after all, but the damage was done: how, commentators asked, can the Conservatives hope to win an election again when their digital offering varies between chaotic or non-existent?
Labour’s remarkable social media operation is widely credited for the party’s unexpected success at last year’s election. Meanwhile, the Tories’ efforts were either (repeatedly) mocked by opponents or the cause of despair for right-of-centre activists.
First Tories announce Chris Grayling as chair of the party, now it appears to be Brandon Lewis? I wonder who next for party chair? I thought we were at the end of pantomime season? ?#cabinetreshuffle #ToryMess2018 pic.twitter.com/6eCTmfiDf5
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) January 8, 2018
This wasn’t always the case—in 2015, the Tories’ use of relentless targeted campaigning was widely seen as effective and Labour was merely playing catch up, eventually losing the election as a result.
“It’s really worth going back and looking at 2015,” said Philip Cowley, a professor of politics at Queen Mary’s university.
“It is only two years ago that after an election we decided that there was a real problem with being very popular among people on social media—which was that you just got yourself into a bubble of self-congratulation and mutual moral masturbation about how wonderful you were.”
This, he says, is what Labour did in 2015, “while the Conservatives were much more ruthless.”
“It’s really interesting that in two years we’ve gone from that perspective to now thinking, ‘the Tories are fucking hopeless, they’re like my granddad trying to work a video recorder’ and Labour are hip and trendy.”
Chris Grayling's 2 minute tenure as Party Chairman recognised on wikipedia pic.twitter.com/3lsci9svmY
— Alex Hacillo (@AlexHatsila) January 8, 2018
Though it’s undeniable that the Corbyn revolution was also a digital one, and that the party has learnt from its Miliband-era mistakes, it is also the case that the Conservatives took several steps back under the May premiership.
“There was that famous Cameron quote—‘too many tweets make a twat’—but by the time 2015 had come around we had got the value of digital campaigning therefore there was this…