From the accidental to the sinister, the Conservatives’ social media game is beyond dire

The Tories' latest slip ups on social media are hilarious - but they also demonstrate a severe lack of respect for the public.

In the run up to the local elections this Thursday, all major parties have been campaigning online for local council seats across the country. The Conservatives, however, have failed to grasp the notion of social media.

They aren’t known for being adept at social media. But a string of mistakes – some clearly intentional – in the last couple of weeks has seen the Tory’s use of social media come under deserved scrutiny and ridicule.

Executed correctly, social media campaigning can have a hugely positive impact on a party’s public relations. It is quite often said to have been one of the most important factors responsible for Labour’s 2017 general election success and the accompanying surge in the youth vote. (The Tories far outspent Labour on social media – but with worse results).

Recently though, the Tories have come under fire for some glaring cock-ups The Haringey Labour Party, for example, tweeted a message of encouragement urging supporters to go out and vote on May 3rd. Hours later, the Haringey Conservatives copied the tweet word for word and posted it on their page.

In their attempt to change the word “Labour” to “Conservative” where necessary, the mastermind behind the keyboard forgot to change the party name in one of the lines, resulting in the Haringey Tories claiming their candidates and activists to be “passionate about Labour values”.

In Canterbury, a constituency which is widely considered to have been Labour’s greatest and most surprising gain in the 2017 election, the Tories had a similar mishap. On a section of the website preparing voters and activists for the 2018 local elections in the area, the Canterbury Conservatives appeared to have forgotten that, umm, there are no local elections in Canterbury this year.

While the mistake is claimed to have been a typo, it appears unlikely that it would go unnoticed, especially based on how many times “2018” is written in reference to the elections.

These failures don’t only demonstrate a lack of social media finesse – they demonstrate a severe lack of respect for the public on the part of the Tories. 

For the minds responsible for the mistakes to genuinely believe that they would go unnoticed shows how the Tories disregard the basic senses of the public and our ability to use them.

While some mistakes can be laughed at, some of the Tory’s social media activity this week has been significantly more sinister. Old tweets by a Tory council candidate standing in Cambridge were discovered after a resident searched the names of the candidates on a leaflet sent around the local area.

George Stoakley’s tweets from 2013, where he claimed to be “sweating like a Jew in an attic” and made jokes about HIV/AIDS being “weaponised seaman” led to a suspension from the party and illustrates a much more sinister side of this week’s social media failures.

And the Conservatives failed to share anything on social media encouraging people to register to vote ahead of these local election – something Labour got capital out of. 

It is unclear whether this string of so-called “errors” will have a significant impact on the Tory’s vote share. But it would not be unreasonable to assume that their lack of understanding of how to harness the powers of social media effectively will have a negative impact in the long run.

Dimitri Andreou is a student of History and Politics student and is a Labour activist.

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