Election campaigning has changed in recent years. While the Saturday morning door knock is here to stay, the battle for hearts and minds is increasingly fought on social media. As Katy Balls recently wrote in The Spectator, there’s a whole other conversation happening online: one that consumers of traditional media just don’t see. Here’s a rundown of the 15 biggest viral videos from this year’s election campaign:
MUST WATCH: Labour’s Jess Phillips undermines Corbyn’s manifesto by admitting they can’t or won’t deliver on their promises.
With no clear plan for Brexit, Labour just can’t deliver. 👇 pic.twitter.com/gfi6bNPQS0
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) November 21, 2019
The misleading Jess Phillips video
The Conservatives made a bit of a stink earlier on in the campaign when they shared a misleading video of backbench Labour rebel Jess Phillips. Phillips appeared to be admitting that Labour would not fulfil all of its policy promises on the same morning that her party launched its manifesto. However, the interview had, in fact, occurred before the election was called and was part of a discussion about manifestos in general. The confusion was compounded (possibly deliberately) by the fact that the text at the bottom referred to this year’s manifesto and the initial vid was dated to the launch day. The Tories later replaced the clip with a clarification, but not before the soft-left firebrand had a pop at the party.
lo fi boriswave beats to relax/get brexit done to
This one might need some explaining. The official Conservative YouTube account has put out a video of Boris Johnson on a train accompanied by ‘lo fi boriswave beats’, essentially mid-tempo electronic music interspersed with samples of Boris’ sayings and slogans. The video is a riff on an internet phenomenon: ‘lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to’. For those not in the know, lofi hip hop radio is the internet equivalent of a pirate radio station. A YouTuber (called ChilledCow) broadcasts relaxing electronic music via livestream with an infinitely repeating video of a young girl studying. Strangely catchy – but it’s doubtful that 2020 will be any more ‘relaxing’.
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) November 28, 2019
Corbyn blames the media for leadership troubles
1.2 million views
For those not acquainted with Rachael Swindon, she is an online Labour activist known for her ability to whip up viral content in support of Jeremy Corbyn. So beloved by the party, the mother-of-two was even invited to parliament last year to meet John McDonnell. The ITV interview itself dates from 2017 and shows an irate Corbyn chastising a reporter for asking about his future as Labour’s leader. Corbyn’s response captures a long-running Labour sore during this election – that the party is being unfairly criticised by the media.
You’ll want to see this one through to the end. pic.twitter.com/ifvU1So681
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 5, 2019
The Tory voter that switches to Labour
1.5 million views
This Labour vid charts the progress of a Tory pubgoer from 2015, through 2017 and on into this election. After explaining why he’s voting first for David Cameron, then Theresa May and finally for Jeremy Corbyn in a kind of montage of discussion and news clips. The video has more than a passing resemblance to the BBC’s Years and Years, a drama that tracked a British family as the nation descends into fascism. Perhaps someone in Labour’s social media department didn’t think this one through…
Have video from Hancock leaving Leeds General just come through so you can see for yourself – doesn’t look like punch thrown, rather, one of Tory team walks into protestor’s arm, pretty grim encounter pic.twitter.com/hD1KwA72gG
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) December 9, 2019
The punch (that wasn’t a punch)
2.8 million views
After Boris Johnson’s disastrous reaction to being shown a picture of a four-year-old on the floor of an A&E (see below), health secretary Matt Hancock was scrambled to the site of the incident at Leeds General Infirmary. Things didn’t seem to go much better for him. Hancock and his aides were confronted by angry protesters. During the exchange, one of these aides appears to have walked into someone’s hand as he was angrily gesticulating. The Conservatives then began briefing that the bag carrier had been punched, which a video posted online subsequently showed not to be the case. Not the most edifying of starts to the week of the election itself.
— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) November 28, 2019
Michael Gove attempts to get into the Channel 4 climate debate
3.6 million views
This was one of several TV appearances that Boris Johnson decided not to turn up to. Instead, the Tories tried to shift the narrative away from the BoJo no-show by sending Michael Gove, the erstwhile environment secretary. Channel 4 chose not to let Gove stand-in for his boss, citing the fact that it was a ‘leaders’ debate’.
End the argument. Get Brexit done. Vote Conservative.
3.6 million views
The Conservatives launched this video over the weekend as part of their final splurge on digital advertising. The video is perhaps the clearest example of the election campaign that was predicted back in the summer: parliament versus the people. The ad makes use of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’, the theme tune to the Champions League and, of course, the coronation anthem. Perhaps Boris is more confident than he’s letting on.
Brexit, actually. pic.twitter.com/4ryuh19c75
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 9, 2019
3.4 million views
Things seem to have gone a bit meta over at CCHQ. This ad opens with the closing shots of the ‘End the argument’ video (above) and parodies a famous rom com. Boris Johnson appears at the front door of our knock-off Keira Knightley, repeating the same stunt as the besotted best man from Love, Actually. One of the few party political vids that’s managed to even verge on amusing. Shame that Hugh Grant, the 2003 film’s dashing prime minister, didn’t think so.
“We try not to eat a lot in one day, even though most of us are really hungry.”
This sentence should never be uttered by any child, let alone one living in the 5th richest country in the world.
Make no mistake, the Tories are responsible for this.pic.twitter.com/cOorZYZMeD
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 1, 2019
Channel 4 Dispatches on child poverty
4.7 million views
Jeremy Corbyn retweeted a clip from the horrific Channel 4 Dispatches documentary into child poverty in the UK. The video shows a young boy called Cameron describing a life of hunger and food banks. While the video originating on traditional media, the clip has been shared online tens of thousands of times and seen by millions.
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) November 23, 2019
American actor Rob Delaney on the NHS
6.5 million views
Delaney’s impassioned argument for the protection of the NHS, that touches on the tragic loss of his infant son, was one of the most shared clips of this election campaign. Emotive stories, such as Delaney’s, have been key to Labour’s overall campaign.
“It is not too late. We have an interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say”
Andrew Neil issues a challenge for Boris Johnson to commit to an interview with him, to face questions on why people have “deemed him to be untrustworthy”https://t.co/daHLxEYn4r pic.twitter.com/oQ21uDdtJe
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 5, 2019
Andrew Neil on Boris Johnson
7.5 million views
The Prime Minister’s decision to dodge an Andrew Neil interview, after all the other party leaders had suffered a grilling, plays into one of the central themes of this election: that Boris Johnson is untrustworthy. The monologue where Neil sums up the kinds of questions he was planning on asking the PM went instantly viral and sparked multiple spin-off videos such as this one. For all that can be said about the influence of new media, often it is traditional broadcasters that can still achieve the greatest cut through.
A Conservative MP tries to redefine what ‘more’ means. Truly horrifying.
Posted by Momentum on Monday, 25 November 2019
Nicky Morgan defending the 50,000 new nurses claim
8.3 million views
Even though she’s stepping down at this election, Nicky Morgan seems to have been a prominent figure in Johnson’s media strategy. Rumours are swirling that she may be considering a move to the Lords after comments she made on the Women with Balls podcast. Morgan was sent out to defend the Tories’ dodgy ‘50,000 new nurses’ claim on Good Morning Britain and was summarily torn apart by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.
How many nurses?
Posted by Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday, 30 November 2019
Gogglebox reacts to the Nicky Morgan interview
2.4 million views
Gogglebox is essentially the nation’s focus group and has had a surprising degree of influence in the 2019 campaign. The TV show is a particularly effective format to use because it allows Labour to present its message as the common-sense expressions of everyday, normal people. In this clip, the viewers roundly condemn Morgan for her robotic repetition of the nurses claim. This video shows how viral content has been regularly repackaged and republished during this campaign.
Tried to show @BorisJohnson the picture of Jack Williment-Barr. The 4-year-old with suspected pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital.
— Joe Pike (@joepike) December 9, 2019
Boris Johnson refuses to look at a photo
11.5 million views
ITV reporter Joe Pike confronted the Prime Minister over a photo of a four-year-old boy, suffering from pneumonia, lying on the floor of an A&E department. The photo has reignited Labour’s flagging claims that the Conservatives are a threat to the NHS. Johnson’s strange behaviour in pocketing the reporter’s phone and appearing not to even look at the image again draws attention to the PM’s supposed slipperiness. But it also reveals Johnson’s attempt to distance himself from the last ten years of Tory rule. This was not the story CCHQ would have wanted in the closing days of this election slog.
.@JustinTrudeau, @EmmanuelMacron, @BorisJohnson and other VIPs shared a few words at a Buckingham Palace reception Tuesday. No one mentions @realDonaldTrump by name, but they seem to be discussing his lengthy impromptu press conferences from earlier in the day. (Video: Host Pool) pic.twitter.com/dVgj48rpOP
— Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) December 3, 2019
Justin Trudeau comments on Donald Trump
20.1 million views
Perhaps not an election video in the truest sense but certainly one that had an impact on the campaign nonetheless. This video shows Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, Princess Anne and Mark Rutte standing around, enjoying a drink at the palace and lightly mocking Donald Trump. The emergence of the vid led the US president to leave the British Nato summit early, branding Justin Trudeau ‘two-faced’. Strategists in CCHQ will have been jumping for joy at the president’s reaction to the clip, leaving Trump to focus his energy on the Canadian premiere rather than Boris and the British election.