Unnoticed by many of those watching the demise of Damian Green, the Tories have not merely admitted they are losing the New Media war, but have committed to regaining the upper hand in it. And they intend to do so by using a little of that exaggeration, abuse and flagrant dishonesty that props up the Trump Gang in the USA - mainly deployed by the Murdoch faithful at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
David Gauke - good of him to warn us what he's up to
Time was when the right wing had the New Media whip hand over the left: bloggers like the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were once genuinely independent, and along with the likes of Iain Dale, Phil Hendren at Dizzy Thinks and the people at Conservative Home, far outweighed the presence of left-leaning participants like Liberal Conspiracy and Political Scrapbook.
Now the Fawkes massive has been assimilated by the Press Borg, Dale is busy elsewhere, Hendren has moved on, and ConHome has become a stale establishment joke. The rise of Labour List, the sticking power of Scrapbook, and new entrants like Skwawkbox, The Canary, Evolve Politics and Novara Media has easily bested new right-wing sites like the risible and boring Conservative Woman.
What now then? As the Guardian has now told, “A Conservative cabinet minister has said his party must ‘not desert the battlefield’ when it comes to defending policy in areas such as health and welfare, but instead be prepared to embark on Twitter spats with critics … The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, suggested his decision to use social media to challenge a Labour MP’s claims about universal credit were part of a concerted Tory effort to respond more robustly”. And how will that work, then?
“I think it is important that we do not desert the battlefield. Social media can at the moment feel dominated by the hard left. I think it is important we engage and make the points … I strongly believe we have got a really good policy with this that will transform lives, but there is almost a sort of knee-jerk criticism and a temptation in particular with universal credit that you cannot almost say anything critical about it and it goes without challenge”.
Hard left. The pejorative language of Fox News. Worse for Gauke and his pals is that he cannot “robustly counter” inconvenient facts - like that Universal Credit does not give claimants any money for five weeks. So when he boasts “the take-up of advance payments by those having to wait five or six weeks to move onto UC had risen from around a third to 62%”, he’s talking about a loan. Which will have to be repaid.
But we do know that “the Conservative party has boosted its social media presence and Downing Street has brought in a new social media expert, hoping to tackle some of the party’s weaknesses highlighted in the 2017 election”. You don’t know whether to laugh out loud or just feel pity for them. You have to hire outside help, you’re still clueless.
Good, though, of David Gauke to let everyone on the centre-left know what the Tories are up to. Now that they’ve been warned, they’ll be ready and waiting for the cheap and amateurish abuse when it comes. The Tories don’t understand New Media.
And long may it stay that way. Given some real knowledge, they might be dangerous.