Labour Party leader Ed Miliband makes his resignation speech at a press conference in Westminster on May 8, 2015 (Photo: Getty)
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Tata Consultancy Services

Election Day 2015: How Twitter reacted

Gareth Jones considers how polling station frivolity turned into amazement and drama.

After a long and action-packed night of political theatre, we can now look back at how the general election was reflected on social media. While, as ever, television provided the main focal point for people's attentions, Twitter was undoubtedly the main outlet for reacting to events and expressing joy, sorrow or amazement (delete as applicable).

The day of polling itself passed almost serenely. With MPs forbidden from campaigning while the polls were open, the most popular meme on Twitter was #dogsatpollingstations, where voters tweeted pictures of their hounds waiting patiently outside. There was also some mischief when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas' Wikipedia pages were edited to display a large picture of Ed Miliband on an all-red background.

This mood of peaceful frivolity was to be shattered at 10pm, when the three major election broadcasters announced the result of their joint exit poll. The prediction of 316 seats for the Conservatives was so different from previous poll indications that pundits reacted first with amazement and then with disbelief. None more so than former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who promised on the BBC that he would publicly eat his hat if it was correct.

Miraculously, within minutes his hat had managed to create a Twitter account in order to protest, gaining nearly 12,000 followers by the next morning. Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell had also promised to eat his kilt, but this garment remained stoic in its refusal to join the social networking age.

As the night entered the small hours, social media chat came to be dominated mostly by members of the dedicated and sleep-deprived media commentariat. It was they who led the  reaction to high-profile MPs losing their seats, although the general public also joined in.

ElectUK, the app built by Tata Consultancy Services to monitor Twitter conversations during the election, reveals that while Labour and the Lib Dems suffered the most parliamentary losses, the most talked about departing MPs were the mavericks. Notably, Nigel Farage's result may not have come in until 10:50am the next day, but he was nevertheless the most talked-about politician on Twitter with 19.5% of conversation.

Respect's George Galloway, meanwhile, received plenty of attention as people commented on both his record and his being reported to the police for speculating about his likely poll result. Perhaps the most intriguing tweet, however, came from Bradford Brewery, which tweeted "Miss you babes @georgegalloway x", and received 821 retweets for its trouble.

As for the most popular tweets overall, ElectUK reveals that the BBC's exit poll announcement topped the list with more than 8,000 retweets. More surprisingly, however, second place went to someone known only as Jamie, who managed more than 5,400 retweets for saying: "If you're a student and you voted for the Conservatives, I bet you £27,000 you'll regret it."

Clearly it won't be long before the daily cycle of policy debate gets back in full swing. But for now, Twitter users could be forgiven for taking a break.

Designed, built and delivered by Tata Consultancy Services, ElectUK turns your smartphone into an advanced social media analytics tool, giving you the ability to identify and share online trends around the upcoming election.

The app is free to download and is available on both iOS and Android devices. Just search for ‘ElectUK’ in the Apple Appstore or Google Play Store.

Visit www.tcs.com/ElectUK for more information or follow @ElectUK on Twitter for all the latest updates from the app.

Please note: the ElectUK app is analysing the data and helping to identify trends in online conversations around the election, it is not promoting or criticising any party or political view.

 

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.