We’re told that the social media comprise an increasingly important battleground in the run up to the general election. The Westminster parties certainly appear to have taken this on board, all their candidates in Cornwall having Facebook pages. Strangely, the challenger parties seem less convinced.
Their candidates may blog regularly, but MK in particular seems reluctant to use Facebook, with only Stephen Richardson at Truro/Falmouth dipping his toe in the water. Ukip’s Graham Calderwood (St Ives), Bradley Monk in South East Cornwall and David Mathews at St Austell have no Facebook pages. Both Monk and Mathews have websites though and the young Monk is active on twitter. For the Greens, Steve Slade at St Austell/Newquay and Karen Westbrook (and before her Sharron Kelsey) at Truro/Falmouth are also not using Facebook to promote their electoral chances. Or at least no pages that I can find.
Looking at Facebook use by party, it seems that on average Greens (those that bother), Labour and Tory candidates make most use of the medium. Ukip and Lib Dem candidates are less keen, with a couple of exceptions (Andrew George at St Ives and Ukip’s Julie Lingard in North Cornwall). In fact, North Cornwall is the constituency where the social media scrap on Facebook is most vigorous, although even here Dan Rogerson is remaining aloof, or hiding, not using his Facebook page which steadily gathers dust. (Neither does his neighbour Steve Gilbert at St Austell, while his other Lib Dem neighbour Phil Hutty in South East Cornwall isn’t seen often on Facebook either).
So whose page is the most liked? Here’s the top ten as of 16th March.
Facebook Likes March 16th
|1. Andrew George (LD, St Ives)||2,577|
|2. Sheryll Murray (Con, South East)||2,037|
|3. Michael Foster (Lab, Camborne)||1,454|
|4. George Eustice (Con, Camborne)||1,204|
|5. Steve Double (Con, St Austell)||949|
|6. Scott Mann (Con, North)||714|
|7. Amanda Pennington (GP, North)||544|
|8. Julia Goldsworthy (Con, Camborne)||434|
|=9. Bob Smith (Ukip, Camborne)||395|
|=9. John Hyslop (Ukip, Truro)||395|
It may be no coincidence that Sheryll Murray and Michael Foster, one of whom viciously attacked the other with a mobile phone, are up at the top. But how are they getting their likes? The Tories at least have been discovered paying out vast sums of money amounting to over £100,000 a month linked to their Facebook activity. This presumably includes paying for likes.
Whose likes are growing at the fastest rate? Andrew George’s leapt up from 800 to over 2,500 in a week, which looks a bit odd. His Office of Andrew George MP Facebook page (catchy title) was amalgamated with his other page, but does that really explain all the growth? Not surprisingly, challenger parties, starting from a lower base, are seeing the biggest hike in their likes.
Change in Likes, 25th Feb-16th March
|1. Andrew George (LD, St Ives)||+1,923|
|2. John Hyslop (Ukip, Truro)||+178|
|3. Bob Smith (Ukip, Camborne)||+116|
|4. Tim Andrewes (St Ives Greens)||+96|
|5. Amanda Pennington (GP, North)||+55|
A more useful measure than likes, which can come from people in Sydney and San Francisco as easily as Saltash or Sennen, is the activity on Facebook and the engagement (how many are responding, liking, commenting or sharing posts). When it comes to activity, the hyper-active Murray and Foster are up there. But they’re both eclipsed by the most recently declared candidate, Labour’s John Whitby in North Cornwall. He’s frantically trying to track down Labour supporters in the north, who’ve been in hiding since the 1940s. Tough task.
Number of posts in week ending March 16th
|1. John Whitby (Lab, North)||26|
|2. Sheryll Murray (Con, South East)||22|
|3. Michael Foster (Lab, Camborne)||20|
|4. St Ives Greens||19|
|5. Steve Double (Con, St Austell)||16|
Meanwhile, turning to engagement per post the top achievers are as follows.
Engagement per post, 25th Feb – 16th March
|1. Julia Goldsworthy (LD, Camborne)||103|
|2. Michael Foster (Lab, Camborne)||47|
|3. Simon Rix (LD, Truro)||23|
|4. Steve Double (Con, St Austell)||13|
|5. Sheryll Murray (Con, South East)||13|
Julia Goldsworthy’s top post in the week ending the 16th was about a reduction in local First bus fares, which she claims was a result of a Lib Dem campaign. This campaign might have been unnecessary had not the evil Government slashed bus subsidies by 23%. Like the other Lib Dem candidates Julia seems to be suffering from a worrying memory lapse when it comes to recalling that the Coalition Government actually includes her own party. Michael Foster’s top posts were about privatisation plans for NHS services, which Labour would never do. Any more that is. As there were very similar privatisation plans back in 2006, when the government was of course ‘run’ by Labour.
Simon Rix at Truro was also expressing his ‘grave concern’ over the future of healthcare as a result of Tory and, errrr, Lib Dem policies of the past five years. The loquacious Steve Double’s top post told us all about pasty-making in St Dennis and his first job as a butcher. This ought to be good training for all those cuts his party is planning when the post-election butchering of public services resumes. Finally, Sheryll Murray’s top post was about Commonwealth Day, which she thinks is a jolly good thing despite the rest of us not noticing it. But nothing to do with Europe so it must be good.