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General Election 2019: Social media highs and lows

UK News | Published:

A look at some of the biggest talking points during the 2019 election campaign.

General Election 2019

Social media has at times taken centre stage during this election campaign, with politicians facing increasing scrutiny over their use of online platforms.

There have been plenty of controversies as well as some lighter moments along the way. Here is a look at the high- and low-lights of the campaign as it played out online.

Tories accused of ‘doctoring’ Starmer video

Not long after the election campaign got under way, the Conservatives got themselves into hot water with a truncated clip of shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer being interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

The shortened clip ended with Sir Keir staring at the camera blankly after being asked by Piers Morgan: “Why would the EU give you a good deal if they know you are going to actively campaign against it?”

However, in the original interview Sir Keir actually responded at length to the question. Despite widespread criticism, the party stood by the edit, tweeting: “Believe it or not, this car crash interview did really take place.”

Milk before or after the tea bag?

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A few days later, the Conservatives released another campaign video which was only fractionally less controversial – showing Boris Johnson’s approach to making tea.

The clip featured the PM wandering around at Conservative HQ answering a series of questions on anything from life in Number 10 to his view on Marmite (a simple “yes”).

However the moment that garnered most attention was Mr Johnson’s brewing technique – namely adding milk before removing the tea bag.

Facing questioning the next day, Mr Johnson insisted the tactic ensured a “delicious” brew.

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All eyes on Facebook ads

After the misuse of Facebook data during the Brexit vote and Trump campaigns, there has been a high level of scrutiny on how parties were targeting members of the public this time round.

The company faced calls to ban political advertising entirely after Twitter announced plans to do so – but Mark Zuckerberg insisted he did not believe his company should censor “political speech”.

Overall, the parties have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on Facebook ads during the campaign, while thousands more were spent on adverts funded from other sources, such as supporters.

High-profile controversial examples included a Conservative ad that was pulled by Facebook for using edited versions of BBC content and a series of misleading graphs from the Liberal Democrats used to claim it was the only party able to beat the other major parties “in seats like yours”.


Lord Buckethead becomes… Count Binface

After finding fame by running against Theresa May in her Maidenhead constituency in 2017, Lord Buckethead was back, but this time with a new name.

After “an unpleasant battle on the planet Copyright”, the newly-monikered Count Binface vowed to take the fight to Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

Asked how we would respond to the PM should they meet at Thursday’s count, he said: “I will be polite and treat him with the decorum that every politician deserves… Maybe we could have a lovely chat about Latin and Greek.”

Factcheck UK

Fresh from the criticism over their Sir Keir Starmer adverts, the Conservatives prompted further anger by rebranding their press office’s Twitter account as “factcheckUK” during the ITV leaders’ debate in November.

Critics argued that the @CCHQ account, which already had a blue tick, was confusing Twitter users looking for independent fact-checkers like Full Fact or Fact Check.

The view appeared to be shared by Twitter, which warned that any further attempts to “mislead people” during the election would result in action.

General Election 2019
One of the tweets posted by the Tories as ‘factcheckUK’ (@CCHQPress/PA)

Stormzy v Michael Gove

Rapper Stormzy’s support for Jeremy Corbyn might be nothing new, but this year’s Glastonbury headliner nonetheless captured attention with a plea for voters to reject “sinister” Boris Johnson.

View this post on Instagram

It is very very very important that every single person who reads this goes and registers to vote. The deadline is 23:59 tomorrow, the link is in my bio. Do not just scroll past, don’t sit there and think “my one little vote ain’t gonna do anything”—your vote is CRUCIAL. Your “one little vote” can quite literally tip the scale for what will be the most important election of our generation. Your “one little vote” means everything, there were millions of people who thought there “one little vote” didn’t mean shit and now Trump is the president of America and we are leaving the EU. So your vote really does count. I will be registering to vote and I will be voting for Jeremy Corbyn. There are several reasons as to why I’m voting for him – I would be here all day if I began to list them…but in my 26 years of life I have never trusted politicians or relied on them to be the bearers of hope and righteous people that we’ve needed them to be. And for me, he is the first man in a position of power who is committed to giving the power back to the people and helping those who need a helping hand from the government the most. I think Boris Johnson is a sinister man with a long record of lying and policies that have absolutely no regard for the people that our government should be committed to helping and empowering. I also believe it is criminally dangerous to give the most powerful role in the country to a man who has said that the sight of a “bunch of black kids” makes him “turn a hair”, compared women in burqas to letterboxes and referred to blacks people as “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. I think it’s extremely dangerous to have a man with those views as the sole leader of our country. These are all MY views, I don’t care for your love or hate for them. I just think it’s important that we all register and go out and vote. And I think it’s important that we use our vote to make sure that the person who runs our country for the next 4 years is someone committed to doing what is right. GO OUT AND DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND TRY YOUR BEST TO LEARN AND UNDERSTAND WHO IT IS YOU’RE VOTING FOR. THE LINK TO REGISTER TO VOTE IS IN MY BIO. ??

A post shared by @ stormzy on

The resulting debate prompted an intervention from Michael Gove, who first said Stormzy was a “far, far better rapper than he is a political analyst”, before causing a stir with a joke based on his lyrics.

“I set trends dem man copy,” the Environment Secretary tweeted, prompting Labour’s David Lammy to accuse him of “sanctioning crass stereotypes”.

The Gauke uncorked

Despite the prospect of fighting a gruelling campaign against his old party, former Conservative minister David Gauke was often on hand to provide some lighter moments.

Among them was an encounter involving a PA reporter, who when asking one of Mr Gauke’s Hertfordshire constituents if they would share their voting intentions, was told: “Well I’m Mrs Gauke, so I probably shouldn’t…”

Andrew Neil tells Johnson interview is ‘oven-ready’

Having interviewed all the other main party leaders, the BBC’s Andrew Neil laid down a challenge to Boris Johnson to face his questioning.

Addressing the camera, Mr Neil urged the PM to finally agree to an interview on the subject of “trust”, and why voters “deemed him to be untrustworthy”.

He added: “It is not too late. We have the interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say.”


Ex-stingtion Rebellion

With the subject of climate change higher on the agenda than in previous campaigns, Extinction Rebellion was again present to remind politicians of their obligations to the planet.

Among the more notable demonstrations held during canvassing was that of a group dressed as bees, who first brought Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s bus to a halt before holding a “die-in” at the Brexit Party’s headquarters in Grimsby.

Needless to say, the protest created quite a buzz on social media, with Ms Swinson thanking them for cleaning their bus afterwards.

PM shies away from photo of hospital boy

As the campaign reached its final week, Boris Johnson found himself criticised for opting not to look at a photo of a four-year-old boy who had been forced to lie on a hospital floor.

Presented with the image of young Jack Williment-Barr, the PM initially refused to look at the picture, prompting rival Jeremy Corbyn to claim “he doesn’t care”.

Storm in a tea cup?

Following the coverage of young Jack’s case, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was despatched to Leeds General Infirmary, where bosses had apologised to the family for the lack of beds available.

Shortly after the minister left, a number of journalists reported claims from the Conservatives that an aide had been assaulted by a Labour activist.

After a brief Twitter storm, further footage appeared to show that the aide had, in fact, walked in to someone’s arm.

Parties in last-minute ad blitz

With polling day fast approaching, the major parties began their big ad blitzes in a final attempt to turn voters’ heads.

Among them were a Boris Johnson Love Actually homage from the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn reading mean tweets about himself and Hollywood star Alan Cummings providing his very own version A Christmas Carol.

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