David Cameron has 916,000 Twitter followers. Ed Miliband has 379,000. The Conservative Party Facebook page has 345,859 likes. Labour’s has 214,289. I suspect that the Conservatives also have more email addresses to send their missive to than Labour does.
Fine and dandy for the national social media election battle.
But cast yourself into the mind of a floating voter in one of those supposed “marginal seats”. Let us imagine this potential voter to be a model democrat – undecided but not apathetic. Someone busy with non political interests but well organised enough to allocate an hour or so before May 7th to investigate the alternative offerings from the various candidates. Such a person does not already emails or Tweets or Facebook posts from any political party.
What if they live in one of the top ten Conservative target constituencies for the Conservatives? How effective is the local online Conservative message compared to that of the rival Labour or Lib Dem incumbent?
If that floating voter Gooogles away what do they find?
The first target is Hampstead and Kilburn where there is a Labour majority of 42. The Conservative candidate is Simon Marcus. He has his own website. The most recent story is from January 12th. He is on Facebook and Twitter.
His Labour opponent is Tulip Siddiq. She also has her own website (the most recent entry being January 20th). She is also on Facebook and Twitter. Her website has lots of endorsements from Labour Party figures such as Lord Kinnock. Perhaps that was left over from the selection battle? I think endorsements are quite a good idea – but the trick is to get them from people who aren’t of obvious Party allegiance.
I think I would give Simon and Tulip a score draw on their websites. The obvious weakness is in only providing a news/blog entry every couple of months. It is all very well to say they are “too busy”. But often this could be the text of a speech or a letter or press release to the local newspaper or a leaflet.
The second target is Bolton West with a Labour majority of 92. The Conservative candidate Chris Green has his own website and is on Facebook and Twitter. His most recent website entry is from Monday.
His opponent is the sitting Labour MP Julie Hilling. She has a website – with the most recent news item being from January 23rd. She is on Twitter but it’s not terribly clear if she is on Facebook. When you look on the homepage “Older News” was a prominent and rather discouraging message.
Chris beats Julie.
The third target is Solihull where there is a Lib Dem majority of 175 to overturn. The Conservative candidate is Julian Knight with his own website – again he is on Twitter and Facebook. The most recent story is from Wednesday and there were three posts the day before that.
The Lib Dem incumbent is Lorely Burt. Her website’s most recent entry is from Januray 27th. Although she is on Twitter and Facebook this is buried deep in the website.
Julian beats Lorely.
The fourth target is Southampton Itchen with a Labour majority of 192 and the Conservative candidate Royston Smith has his own website and is on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent blog entry is January 15th.
His Labour opponent is Rowena Davis. Her website‘s most recent post is from February 5th – but the one before that is from November 14th. So that’s a bit slack given she is a journalist.
Both Royston and Rowena are good at tweeting but neglectful of blogging.
A score draw.
The fifth target is Mid Dorset and North Poole with a Lib Dem majority of 269. The Conservative candidate Michael Tomlinson has his own website. He is on Facebook and Twitter. The most recent story on his website is from February 5th.
The Lib Dem candidate is Vikki Slade. She has her own website and is on Twitter but not Facebook. Again the most recent story is from February 5th. But that was the first entry this year.
Michael beats Vikki.
The sixth target is Wirral South with a Labour majority of 531. The Conservative candidate is John Bell who has his own website and is on Twitter and Facebook. The most recent story is from February 7th.
His opponent is the Labour MP Alison McGovern. She has her own website but it has a more partison than personal look which some may find offputting. On the other hand it has plenty of news items – the most recent being February 11th. She is on Twitter (although this was quite hard to spot from the website) but does not seem to be on Facebook.
A score draw.
The seventh target is Derby North with a Labour majority of 613. The Conservative candidate Amanda Solloway has her own website and is on Twitter and Facebook. The most recent story is from last July!
Her Labour opponent is a Dave Spart figure called Chris Williamson who is the sitting Labour MP. His website offers as the first message you see: “VENEZUELA UNDER ATTACK FROM RIGHT WING INSURGENTS”. The previous item rejoices in Syriza’s victory. He is on Twitter and Facebook.
A score draw I suppose. Amanda’s blog is hopelessly out of date. Chris keeps keenly up to date with content that would surely cause any floating voter that came across it too recoil.
The eighth target is Wells where there is a Lib Dem majority of 800. The Conservative candidate James Heappey he has his own website and is on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent news item is from February 8th.
The Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt has her own website and is on Twitter. The most post on her website is from February 6th.
A score draw.
The ninth target is Dudley North with a Labour majority of 649. The Conservative candidate Afzal Amin has his own website and is on Facebook but not Twitter. The most recent news story was from last October.
The sitting Labour MP Ian Austin has his own website and is on Facebook and Twitter. The most recent story was January 29th.
So, I’m afraid, that on this measure at the moment Ian beats Afzal.
Then tenth target is Great Grimsby with a Labour majority of 714. (This is also a UKIP target but this game is complicated enough already). The Conservative candidate is Mar Jones. He has his own website and is on Twitter and Facebook. The most recent story is from December 21st.
The Labour candidate is Melanie Onn who doesn’t seem to have her own website but just a few pages on the Labour Party one. Surely she loses points for that although she is on Twitter.
Marc beats Melanie – although both do badly.
So mostly the Conservatives are doing better than their opponents. Given that often the opponents are sitting MPs this is heartening. On the other hand for three of the candidates in the top ten target seats to have no new content up this year is unimpressive. To justify this by saying that canvassing is the prioirty misses the point. Website content helps ensure canvassers are well informed of the candidate’s views on local controversies.
Must do better.