I’m not going to discuss election policies here. But as long time readers of this blog know, I am an active member of the Liberal Democrat party and a former local election candidate. For some time I have been a member of the Facebook group I’m voting for the Liberal Democrats in 2010. And today, as a member of that group, I received an invitation to join a new group with the interesting name We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office! I joined, and my Facebook frends who are UK voters (or I think they are – and they are not already group members) will by now have received from me an invitation to join this group.
Late last year a Facebook campaign to get the Rage Against the Machine song “Killing in the Name” to number 1 in the UK singles chart. According to Wikipedia, at one time “the Facebook group membership stood at over 950,000”, and the song took the Christmas number 1 slot almost certainly because of this campaign.
If campaigns like this can swing the pop charts, can they swing a general election? I think it is quite likely that they can. After all Barack Obama’s success in the USA is widely attributed in part to his successful use of modern media.
Now of course in principle such a campaign could benefit any party who made good use of this technique. But there are several reasons why this is likely to benefit the Liberal Democrats most, even if expertly copied by other parties – and the new group is deliberately making use of them.
One reason is that many LibDem policies appeal especially to students and other young people – especially the pledge to abolish tuition fees, which is highlighted on the group’s info page (although sadly the pledged change would be too late to help the current generation of students). But these same young people are perhaps the least likely group to vote. So a Facebook appeal targeted at young people, and fans of Rage Against the Machine (a group which also opposes two party politics – but I am not endorsing them), is likely to attract a disproportionate number of LibDem voters.
Another important factor is the bandwagon effect. Although the group claims “This is NOT a bandwagon!”, in some ways it is. One aim is to increase confidence that a vote for the LibDems is not wasted, so that people don’t vote tactically for one of the main parties. Doug Chaplin seems to take it for granted that the LibDems are only interested in tactical votes, but he is wrong: they want people to vote for them on principle. Indeed, they are confident that a majority of the country agrees in general with their principles, and in this way they are aiming to win.
So will this Facebook campaign be effective? First it needs to grow considerably beyond its current 30,000 members, but it has three weeks to do so. But I think it has the potential to be highly effective – dare I say far more effective than tonight’s TV debate, which I will not be watching? Will the campaign get the Nick Clegg into Downing Street? Well, three weeks are a long time in politics, and anything is possible!
Apologies if the image or any of these links work only for Facebook members.