The digital battlefront
Have you noticed the date? We’re still In, and there’s been no reports of sighting Johnson ‘dead in a ditch’. Instead, the GE has started. The battle lines are being drawn. Don’t expect it to be about Brexit – the establishment parties will give lip service and then avoid it like vampires avoid garlic. Moreover, the GE battle is taking place ‘in private’ on social media. It has already started. More on that below. First, the ‘official’ as opposed to the ‘digital” campaigns:
Labour is unashamedly going to turn our country into an industrial-strength “Venezuela of the North” and will ‘deliver Brexit’ in six months should Corbyn become PM (link, paywalled). The Tories will be going with the “One Nation” slogan even though nobody knows what that means when it’s at home. They will also campaign on the Boris-Deal but I suspect that they will discover that this may not be the vote-winner they hope for. The LibDems will go with ‘stop Brexit’ and are already working out how best to support Remain “Tories” like Dominic Grieve or defeat Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg by standing their candidates down or forming electoral pacts with the Greens and/or Labour.
The Brexit Party will reveal their strategy today – it will be streamed live from 10.30am on their website. Meanwhile, the MSM this morning are full of the coup landed by Nigel Farage in his LBC radio slot yesterday evening where he talked with Donald Trump – you can watch it here, reports are here and here, and paywalled here and here. The gist is that President Trump told Johnson to join forces with TBP.
The first cracks have already appeared in the shiny Labour election presentation. The Jewish community warned their members not to vote for Corbyn (here) while the CBI complained about ‘language’:
“The Labour leader’s language was criticised by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry lobby group.” (paywalled link)
What did she expect? Hadn’t she listened to Corbyn’s speeches in the HoC? Has she no historical knowledge of how socialists love their ‘useful idiots’? Hasn’t the CBI’s constant blocking of Brexit with their Project Fear scenarios played right into Labour’s socialist hands?
The inevitable experts of voter behaviour, numbers and other imponderables were given mega-pixels to show their brilliance. They are crunching their numbers solely based on their own feelings and preferences – this is only Day One, remember! All very clever, I’m sure, and again culminating in “Vote Farage get Corbyn”, for example here and paywalled here.
Keeping in mind that nobody knows what will happen in this election there’s one prediction I can make with confidence, even though I am not a political guru: Labour will wheel out “Our NHS” at every opportunity. Corbyn did that in the HoC ever time he gave a speech and was doing so again. Richard Littlejohn writes:
“Labour can’t be allowed to get away with their preposterous claim that, if the Tories win, they will sell off the health service to the Americans. Corbyn was at it again yesterday, alleging Johnson intends to hand over the NHS to Donald Trump. Does anyone seriously believe that is going to happen?” (link)
RemainCentral is also ‘on the case’, with this astounding interpretation of Corbyn’s preposterous claims that Johnson will privatise the NHS and sell it to US companies:
“The problem that the Conservatives face is that for all they insist that they will never agree to US demands, they cannot stop them being made. And if they hold the line on medicine prices, the US will demand more concessions elsewhere. That is why senior Tories are so worried that Mr Corbyn’s warning of a “Trump-deal Brexit” might start to cut through.” (link, paywalled)
You’ll have noticed the Labour ploy: insinuating that demands from one side are proof that they will be accepted by Johnson and are therefore ‘fact’.
The next card in this election war was produced by Tom Watson, still Labour deputy leader. Writing to the BBC (!) he demanded that they ‘expose Johnson lies’:
“Labour fired a warning shot at broadcasters last night, telling them to “rise to the challenge of Boris Johnson’s lies”. Tom Watson has called on them to “do what they do best” and combat the prime minister’s “fake news”. The deputy leader’s challenge came after some journalists were met with a hostile reception from activists at the party’s campaign launch.” (link, paywalled)
Note this Labour election strategy: Johnson is a liar and the MSM must challenge him, while Labour and Corbyn should not be questioned. Here are details, first a quote from Watson’s letter to the BBC, then the remark by Corbyn:
“This time round we are all facing an unprecedented challenge. In previous campaigns, there was a reasonable expectation that politicians attempted to abide by relative standards of decency, but in Boris Johnson we have a Conservative leader who wilfully ignores those standards. I hope you will therefore endeavour to identify and appropriately challenge fake news, lies and distortions of the truth that Boris Johnson’s campaign will inevitably peddle.” […] The Labour leader told the crowd: “I’m very happy to go out there on this election campaign. […] And I ask our media, as good journalists, to just report what we say.” (link, paywalled)
This is how they will play it: Johnson is a liar but Labour is in possession of the truth and must not be questioned, not even when they themselves tell lies about the holy NHS.
The new election battles however will be fought on the various social media platforms, but not in the form of ‘official’ party ads. The MSM will work as amplifiers, selecting tweets according to their political bent. Here is an example where mocking tweets are selected, not supporting ones. Dominic Grieve, addicted to be in the MSM limelight, fired a parting shot relating to this ‘digital front’:
“[Johnson] has been accused of sitting on a key report assessing the threat posed by Russia to Britain’s democratic processes. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve argued voters must have access to the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which he chairs, given an election has been called for December 12. He said it was ‘unacceptable’ for the Prime Minister to ‘sit on it’ […]” (link)
I’m sorry, Mr Grieve, but ‘Putin bots’ are soo yesterday and are just a fat squirrel. The main parties, especially Labour, have their own ‘bots’ and are using them very successfully already. The Times explains:
“Beneath the public election campaign, which all of us can see, runs another, which most of us will not. Politics has become an iceberg and never more so than at election time. Above the surface run campaign speeches, television appearances and most newspaper reporting. The world below may be far larger. Boris Johnson’s consigliere, Dominic Cummings, has said that as the campaign director of Vote Leave he ran more than a billion online adverts during the referendum campaign with almost nobody but their recipients noticing. Today all parties have learnt these tricks, as have campaigners such as the Labour-supporting Momentum, which boasts of having raised £100,000 to target adverts at voters in a marginal seats.” (link, paywalled)
This is extremely serious, especially given the fact that most people, particularly the younger generations, prefer to ‘get’ their news on their smartphones and are thus easy targets. This quote points to one small remedy but the fox, I’m afraid, is already in the henhouse
“Compared with three years ago tighter controls do now exist, largely thanks to the EU’s GDPR law, over what data parties can use to target advertisements. Yet the very concept of political communication that is not quite public, particularly when no law compels it even to be truthful, makes a mockery of accountability.” (link, paywalled)
This digital battle taking place already is the reason why this GE is going to be unpredictable, why the usual opinion pieces and polls are no longer indicators. There will be a “From Behind the Paywall” column later this morning on this issue, with material you need to have.
Meanwhile, beware of Momentum Bots and be aware that you will be targeted by them with ‘nice’ reasons why you must vote Corbyn, tailored to you personally. Brexit? Never mind Brexit – look at this shiny bauble: ‘Our NHS’!