Tories are not only afraid of Jeremy Corbyn taking their seats and moving into a more upmarket London address. They are jealous of him and in awe of the social media and grassroots campaigns getting him closer to No. 10. Proof of this came in the shape of a Tory clone of Labour’s Momentum movement launched this week, called Activate. This complimented other efforts by Tories to pour their old wine into new bottles, another example that of Moggmentum (the equivalent of Dennis Skinner doing some word play on a movement led by Enoch Powell or Norman Tebbit).
Tories may be incompetent buffoons when it comes to this organic growth sort of thing. But they do understand the growth a savvy social media technique fosters, in particular the links between a successful social media campaign and votes. The fact that Corbyn is an outsider underlines his success. For a party led by a traditional socialist, Momentum and other supporting acts offered a means of circumventing mainstream media coverage which is increasingly biased against old-school Labour. Aside from that, there are good reasons why social media is a source of political bonding, and hence political power. Sharing posts and interacting with like minded individuals boosts natural social ties. Having comments liked and shared gives a sense of importance. Memes allow everyone to share in a chuckle. In many ways, its similar to the Trump phenomenon, minus the fake news.
In theory, there is no reason why Tories couldn’t replicate the success of Momentum. Thatcher sold her vision of a de-regulated UK in the 1980s by appealing to the youthful desire to be free of restraint. Such a tack couldn’t be attempted now, however. To most youth, de-regulation means more expensive tuition fees and no job security. Corbyn’s message is hitting home and is a traditional Labour one. To counter, Tories need to appeal to the youthful zeitgeist. At the moment they lack the imagination to formulate a coherent narrative and only know what they don’t like.
Activate is thus reduced to saying no! The first meme published on their Facebook page effectively says ‘no!’ to a Corbyn ‘Jez we can’ (apologies for making you cringe if you clicked on the link). Granted, Conservatives are the party of no, or at least the party of reluctant change. But they have to say ‘no’ while appearing to say ‘yes.’ (Like in this video released during the height of Thatcherism). Especially on the platforms of social media. Otherwise, they look like pre-Blairite Labour socialists of the 80s and 90s. And the votes will go the same way.