OPINION: Winning The Digital Arms Race For UKIP
The Spectator carried a fascinating piece last week arguing that Labour was decisively winning the ‘digital arms race’ that now dominates politics and that the Conservatives are still in the stables This has been commonly received political wisdom for some time and it is a matter of necessity being the mother of invention.
Labour has never had a particularly domineering presence amoung the print media and the further left they have gone, the truer that has become. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have traditionally cornered all but a tiny corner of the newspaper market, commanding the support, except in exceptional circumstances, of the entire Murdoch stable, The Telegraph, The Mail, The Express. The Conservative Party has never really needed to move beyond this comfort zone, however, as the print media is declining in relevancy and ability to sway large segments of voters, they are increasingly outflanked by tech-savvy Labour. However, they may find Labour’s domination as hard to break online as Labour found it to shift their domination of the printing presses.
So, where does this leave us? Well, for one thing, necessity must be the mother of our invention. The mainstream media, with the partial possible exception of the Daily Express, hate us, always have done, always will. So, we cannot rely on them to get our message out unburnished, they may feign interest and even friendliness but it is all, to borrow a phrase, fake news. In many ways, that puts us in a similar position to Labour in that we need to stand on our own two feet, not rely on anyone else, and make our own way in this hostile world.
Party press obviously has a huge role to play in all of this. Presently, communications both externally and internally are 50 shades of totally dire. I am not going to pull any punches here because sometimes the best friend you can have is the most critical one. I have communications experience and I have done it at an intern level for a Member of Parliament. In terms of writing and blogging it is something, I have roughly 15 years experience in and I, therefore, without wanting to inject too much hubris, speak with some authority on this matter. Internal communications are ungradeable because they simply don’t exist and external communications get an F-.
Messages are incoherent or rambling and often wide of the mark. Tweeting during the Budget coverage, the frankly absurd claim that if we gave no surrender money to the EU the government would have to borrow nothing [what has happened to the structural deficit, the interest repayments on the previous borrowing, etc, etc?], as one official Party account did, wins you 0 credibility points from an already hostile media environment. Our messages must derive authority from being credible and any political commentator worth their salt knows that the above example is not a credible comment so while it might sound good to activists it will receive zero coverage at best or be met with howls of derision at worst. A professional media operation would not have let that tweet be sent.
So, much improvement is needed in that area. However, that is not the end of the story because the fact is that the online audience is skeptical when it comes to ‘official sources’. Part of the point of consuming your daily media diet online is to escape officialdom. So it is with Labour whose ‘friendly’ sites like The Canary amplify the official message and put it out there in a way that the tech-savvy skeptics feel comfortable consuming.
It is here that sites like Kipper Central become a central part of any sensible social media strategy. I am proud to say there is no doubt that Kipper Central is demonstrably the leading UKIP-supporting community blog in terms of audience share and it continues to grow. However, looking at the bigger picture, there is too much fragmentation on the independent UKIP blogsphere and this needs to change so we can meet the threat posed by Labour’s domination of this medium. Read The Canary, read everything Labour puts out and the danger posed to our country is I believe clear. Reading through this should be a call to arms and a call to unity. If we work together, we can, I believe, amplify the Party message and play our part in enhancing it to such a degree that we will become a vital part of winning for UKIP the digital arms race that Labour and the left currently dominate.