WELL. That was a pretty unprecedented week, last week, wasn’t it? The Tory landslide that never was. An election that was expected to be a one horse race, but that instead firmly established the Labour Party as strong opposition once again. And the mayhem that has ensued, with the press seeming to do a 180 on poor old Theresa May, who is quietly retreating to No.10 after what has to be one of the most disastrous few months for any PM to have served this country.
So what happened? From a party that before the election was said to be 20 percentage points ahead of Labour, to one that made a net loss of 13 seats in this election, against Labour’s 30 additional seats…
From the rise of the youth vote, to the fall of UKIP, and the security issues raised by the appalling events in Manchester and London, to the U-turns on dementia tax, there are a great many theories about what led Mrs May and her party to the unenviable position it finds itself in. What has no doubt played a very strong part is communications from both parties.
One thing is for certain – had this election taken place two decades ago, the idea of public opinion swinging so drastically against the party would be unthinkable. With the absolute might of the national media behind her, for Theresa May it must have been hard to imagine anything other than a Tory romp to victory, unchallenged by Corbyn, who had – until days before the election – been subjected to relentless media opposition, or, if we call a spade a spade, media smear.
In an age though when every citizen is a journalist, and every meme can go viral, it’s no longer possible for the media alone to control the narrative. As the power of social media increases, that of the traditional media erodes. For every article that talked of Mr Corbyn’s misgivings, there was a social media post telling a different story. For every Photoshopped picture of elderly women sticking two fingers up at Corbyn, was a thousand shares of the real image, which showed a woman greeting the Labour Party leader. And when the media chose not to cover the Labour Party at all, the citizen journalist was hammering at the laptop keys, doing their own reporting of what the leader had been up to.
There were videos of a seemingly irrepressible Corbyn taking his message to Libertines gigs, grime artists posting endorsements of the Labour rebel and cringe-worthy memes of Theresa May bragging that her naughtiest act was to run through a field of wheat (I know, very naughty indeed). The result…. a political party in turmoil; newspaper editors left scratching their heads; and a new generation of political activists using social media as a megaphone to project their views. While the outcome of this election may still be unclear, as Theresa May does her deal with the DUP, it has been perhaps the most stark reminder I can recall, of just how much social media is changing the landscape when it comes to comms.
Image credit: Daily Express