Clegg's Twitter launch is nothing of the sort

Lib Dem social media strategy is classic old media

According to page 11 of this morning's print edition of the Guardian, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, will today eschew "the typical podium and press conference set-up favoured by politicians".

Instead, he will launch his party's new policy for the young and out-of-work direct to his 6,892 Twitter followers, his 3,084 Facebook fans and a seemingly defunct Lib Dem YouTube channel.

The piece goes on to outline the policy announcement in some detail:

A 90-day promise that would see young people claiming jobseeker's allowance for more than three months helped into training, a job or an internship. If they did not have any luck with these three, they would be fast-tracked on to a welfare-to-work programme, the flexible new deal.

But, of course, this is no digitally inspired launch. This is classic press relations. The national press are suckers for stories about Twitter, as they once were for tales of eBay and FriendsReunited. The Lib Dem press people know this very well and will be delighted with the secondary coverage guaranteed by five column inches in the Guardian.

A Twitter and Facebook campaign may generate a debate -- that's what social media can do when used well -- but it's a fair bet that most people know about this latest tweet-fest thanks to old media.

 

Follow Nick Clegg on Twitter. Better still, follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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