Chuka Umunna Winning Labour Leadership Online
Earlier today Chuka Umunna announced his intention to run for the leadership of the Labour Party. It was telling, in more ways than one, that he chose to make his announcement via a video posted to his Facebook page. In a world of social media and online newsfeeds, Umunna is pressing home his advantage in the digital arena.
The Race for Leadership
In the world of politics, parties are never given long to mourn, and while Labour may be inclined to sit back and lick their wounds after a devastating result in the general election last week, reality will not allow them to do so.
Friday 8th May saw three out of the seven main party leaders resign their posts, in what became a glaring example of the brutality of the UK political system. Miliband, Clegg and Farage all stepped aside as each of their parties got less seats than they were hoping for.
Whilst this weekend may have been a period of quiet reflection, or relieved celebration – depending on where you fall on the political spectrum, it won’t be long before attention turns to the future of these stuttering parties. In fact the battle for the leadership of the labour party is well under way.
The frontrunners for the Labour leadership are currently believed to be Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna. We decided to look at how well each of these candidates is fairing in the online battle to take over as party leader.
The power of the “Twittersphere”
At the moment Chuka Umunna, the MP for Streatham, is out in front in the race for the web. Umunna is currently trending on Twitter after his announcement earlier today, with his name and face gaining more and more exposure with every passing second. The 36-year old Shadow Business Secretary has 115,000 followers on Twitter, putting him well ahead of his rival candidates. He has gained over 2,000 followers in the last 24 hours, a statistic that displays the public’s wish to actively engage with the young politician.
His closest competitor in this category is Andy Burham, the MP for Leigh, who is currently followed by 70,100 people. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, is trailing on just 61,500 followers.
Google is a powerful ally
Mr Umunna is also winning the fight when you look at the number of Google searches for the leadership candidates.
As you can see from this graph, all the candidates have received a big boost in search traffic since the election results were announced and Mr Miliband stepped down. Before this spike, Yvette Cooper had a 2% lead over Chuka Umunna and a 3% lead over Andy Burnham. However, since then the gap has grown considerably, with Umunna racing to a 30% lead over his rivals.
Mr Umunna is also benefitting from some favourable placement on Google’s search results pages (SERPs). Upon searching the term “new labour leader”, Umunna’s name appears an impressive three times in the top half of the page. The only other politicians to appear on the SERP are the Miliband brothers, whilst Umunna’s rivals are nowhere to be seen.
Searches don’t equal votes
Whilst this may all look very promising for Chuka, it is important to remember that searches do not necessarily imply support for a candidate. We cannot tell the sentiment under which each user searched for a specific term.
Nigel Farage, the reinstated UKIP leader, ran a close second to David Cameron in the Google constituencies map. This may well have been down to his various controversial outbursts in the build-up to the election. There was a notable rise in searches for him after his now infamous comments on HIV positive immigrants – clearly this increase in searches did not necessarily indicate an increase in support.
Why look online?
It is no secret that we have progressed into a digital age. An age where news websites have higher reader figures than their newspaper counterparts. Most people under the age of 40 state that their primary source of news comes from the internet. A higher number still, of people under the age of 30, state that they receive their news updates almost entirely from social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
In recent times there has been an ever growing trend for both politicians and businesses to try and increase their social media and online presence. It is a rarity to find a prominent public figure without a twitter page and practically unheard of to find one without a website. The internet serves as a worldwide forum that allows for people to reach out to like-minded individuals no matter where they are. It only makes sense then that politicians have sought to utilise this medium as a way to increase their exposure and their popularity.
What are the best examples of online campaigns?
Perhaps the most successful attempt to do this was carried out in Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign back in 2008. The soon-to-be president was already well established on Twitter and now has a staggering 59,000,000 followers. His party’s clever use of viral images and sound bites helped enormously with his online presence and secured his spot as somewhat of a global icon. This strategy hit home with young voters in particular with Obama achieving two-thirds of the votes of people aged 18-29.
In the UK general election that took place last Thursday, all the opinion polls had called it a dead heat and predicted neither major party would be able to achieve a majority. However there was one poll that pointed to David Cameron reaching the hallowed 326 seat mark. This was the Google-generated constituency map. Mr Cameron also had by far the most Twitter followers of any of the party leaders – just over 1 million. Whilst this is clearly not the sole reason for his success, this online exposure would have made a big contribution to Cameron’s campaign.
The race for the Labour leadership is still in its infancy. Umunna may have taken an early lead, having overtaken Andy Burnham as the bookies’ favourite to succeed Ed Miliband, but the campaign has just begun. Burnham and Yvette Cooper, believed to be Umunna’s main contenders, have still not thrown in their hats. It will be interesting to see how their online exposure changes once they announce their intentions to join the debate.
However, it is unlikely that they will be able to overturn Umunna’s early advantage online. Umunna is seen as part of the New Labour section of the party and will therefore be aiming primarily at the younger demographics, with Burnham likely to be aiming for the more left-wing voters that formed most of Labour’s support pre-1997. This means that the other candidates will have to get creative if they want to tackle the momentum that Umunna is already building.
What do you think of Umunna and the other Labour candidates? Who’s your favourite or would you prefer someone else altogether? Let us know by commenting below.