TikTok Memes Are Currency in the UK General Election

UK flag and Tiktok logo behind parliment building with hands holding election ballots
TikTok UK Election Lana Sham/Shutterstock Prathmesh T/Shutterstock Svet foto/Shutterstock Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Last week, it was announced that the UK will be holding a General Election. Ironically, on July 4th, Brits will be voting for the party they feel represents their views the most in Parliament. A vote which, by extension, will determine which party leader will end up as the country’s Prime Minister.

With one in ten UK citizens getting their news directly on TikTok, political parties are taking the battle of hearts and minds to Gen Z’s favorite app. And given it was once a dancing app with 15-second videos, TikTok has come a long way since 2018. It’s now the go-to political arena.

So, it should come as no surprise that the two largest parties in the UK, Labour and Conservative, are already making waves there.

The battle of hearts, minds, and memes 

The Conservatives began dipping toes in the creator economy on Sunday, May 26. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke in a glossy, well-lit, professionally-edited TikTok about bringing back mandatory National Service for 18-year-olds. 

These types of videos are perfectly manicured for the vertical video app, but is that enough? It appears like the answer is no.

Labour’s TikTok page boasts over a million cumulative video likes, while the Tories lag behind at just 212,100. While Labour’s TikTok has 92,400 followers, the Tories only have 28,600.

Why? The Conservatives’ TikTok UK election strategy couldn’t be more different to Labour’s.

The election was only announced recently. But the Labour Party is already going viral for dozens of crudely-edited, low-resolution reaction memes and shitposts.

What are the experts saying?

In an interview with The Independent, journalist and author Chris Stokel-Walker branded the Conservative’s social media approach as “soulless and lifeless.” Labour’s TikTok team, by contrast, appears more “savvy,” he said.

“It’s pretty clear that Labour have a savvier social media team who have pretty effectively managed to minimize the Tories’ claims, not least their clever way of adopting memes to try and rubbish Rishi Sunak’s policy of national service,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kate Dommett, Professor of Digital Politics at the University of Sheffield, told the outlet that it’s vital for content to appear “human.” “The Labour Party are doing well by playing into voter frustrations, and it’s much easier to do that with irreverent content on TikTok,” she said.

As the Democrats in the U.S. adopt a similar approach, it’s clear that this election season, the currency is memes. 

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