Illustration by Hannah Robinson
It is standard procedure for losers to suggest that they had always been destined to lose, long before voting began. The fact remains that until that exit poll, we were told we were ‘a standard polling error’ away from a hung parliament, and that Corbyn-Sturgeon coalition that so many (or, with hindsight, so few) sought after.
Those who complain of the billionaire-backed right-wing press swinging the British public wilfully ignore the fact that social media remains the safest of safe spaces for the left. Unlike the newspapers, this is through no fault of the owners, but because of the kind of person that is on Twitter.
Social media is yet to become a ‘thing’ of the middle-aged Middle Englander. Though it is undeniable that they do venture onto these platforms, it is often in the form of far closer-knit, private spheres. In searching for these spots I came across the Facebook group ‘Boycott the BBC on 31st Oct’, which has since had its name changed to ‘Bin the BBC’. The 2,631 members spread and condone narratives – largely surrounding immigration – that would shake the public world of social media. A Twitter account, Corbyn in The Times, picks up on the historic scoops surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s controversies in the national press. Bolstering a humble 15,000 followers, this shows further that there was a general disinterest in the Labour leader’s past on social media. Yes, people share these things, but they seldom go viral to the scale of Boris Johnson’s past comments on women or the working class. The account re-published a 1993 Observer article detailing Corbyn’s ‘support’ of MP Bernie Grant’s ‘dramatic proposal that black citizens be offered cash to resettle in Africa’. True to form, The Sun did pick up on this, however it certainly was not trending on mainstream Twitter.
Polling day itself, and the run-up to it, proved so fruitful for Corbynistas on Twitter and Facebook that at 21:59 pm on Thursday I thought we were heading for a hung parliament. Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Lily Allen led the charge to stop the nation turning blue. On polling day, six tweets from Corbyn’s account received over 100,000 likes, and many more were very close to that figure. Boris Johnson’s account could only muster up a measly 29,300 likes on its top tweet, which stated that ‘Today is our chance to get Brexit done. Vote Conservative.’
The message that resonated so strongly with voters of all backgrounds across the country had effectively flopped on Twitter. Corbyn’s message of ‘hope’ was not only attracting the celebrities that would be paying the higher taxes, but also the masses on Twitter. Alan Sugar aside, Johnson had few allies here. Even his victory tweet thanking those who voted stands well below those heavy-hitting Corbyn tweets in terms of likes.
Fellow students changing their Facebook profile picture to detail their Labour vote and to explain how voting Tory is bigoted, racist and downright stupid, added to the picture of a red surge. Yet if there is anything that the General Election of 2019 has taught us, it is that people do not like being called stupid, or being ignored. Ronnie Campbell, the veteran former Labour MP for Blyth Valley, who stood down before the election, spoke afterwards of how constituents at doors had told him that ‘You’ve ignored us, so we’re going to ignore you [and not vote Labour]’. That is precisely what they did.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry allegedly said to Caroline Flint that she was ‘glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours’ upon her colleague losing her seat. True or not, the existence of such stories patronising once-traditional Labour voters will only alienate them further. The lure of ‘getting Brexit done’ – and fulfilling one of the clearest mandates ever provided by the British public – ensured the ‘Red Wall’ fell in the most dramatic way. This was just days after a prominent Guardian journalist told us ‘It is a myth that Labour have lost the working class’. The complacency which resulted in Labour becoming the party of North London ended with 18-point swings and a net gain on 123 seats needed to secure a majority next time round.
As with all polls, social media traction ought to be taken with a handful of salt. We have the ability to create our own echo-chambers at the tip of our thumb and forefinger. The social media demographic demands that this will forever be a left-leaning one.
The General Election of 2019 was another one lost by most on Twitter and Facebook. Given that just 19 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted Conservative (compared to the 57 per cent that voted Labour), this is a student-centric issue. Is it us, the students, who are out of touch with our futures? Or the old trying to deny us one? The point remains: this was another election lost by the self-entitled celebrities and the revolutionary students. It was won by the many who were supposed to be the few. And it certainly was not won on social media.