Thursday, 20 March 2014

#EpicToryFail – when social media goes bad

If you needed more evidence that satire is is on its last pegs, it came late yesterday in the form of yet another bungled attempt at doing social media by the Conservative Party.

After the Budget earlier in the day, party chairman Grant Shapps used Twitter to spread the good news.

In a graphic, under the hashtag #Budget2014, was a series of colourful balls bearing the legend: ‘Bingo!’ followed by the news: “cutting the bingo tax & beer duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy. Conservatives”.

Oh. Dear. Me.

Or in social media parlance: find me that Jean Luc Picard facepalm picture.

Where does one start?

“The things they enjoy”? [My italics]

And who might “they” be, Grant?

We’re rather left to assume that that is his idea of what “hardworking people” like doing. It does rather reek of ‘them and us’.

Today, George Osborne has spent time fending off questions about this single tweet and attempting to get the discussion back on topic – in other words, onto his Budget.

That would have been interesting, since such an august body as the Institute for Fiscal Studies is currently somewhat confused about the Chancellor’s sums.

But no, we’re still caught up in the giggles over BingoGate. Simon Blackwell, one of the scriptwriters of The Thick of It, noted via Twitter, had such a plot line been suggested at a script meeting, it would have been dismissed as being “too far-fetched”.

And well into the afternoon, it was still trending on Twitter, while all that Mr Shapps had managed during the intervening hours was one really rather lame effort at condemning Labour for a weak response to the Budget itself.

Not that the Tories are strangers to epic social media fails.

Last summer, Mr Osborne tweeted a picture of himself eating a burger while finishing off a spending review that slashed services – the burger just happened to be a ‘posh’ one from Byron, which would have cost around £7, and had had to be delivered.

Then, after the under-attack Chancellor labeled him the “model of lean government” in the Commons, the rotund secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles tweeted a picture of himself preparing a speech and eating a salad – which must have made a change from the (alleged) £10,000 increase in his department’s biscuit budget for 2012

Funnily enough, that particular tweet actually worked – excluding the question of whether you think that government ministers should be playing such games.

But then again, here’s a little point that might be worth remembering: Pickles was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Meanwhile, over at @toryeducation, one or other of secretary of state Michael Gove’s resident gophers has, on more than one occasion, used the account to tweet exasperated and even abusive responses whenever someone seems to be getting the better of their lord and master.

'I'm being serious – really'
And let us really not forget the Prime Minister’s own glorious moment a week or so ago, when he tweeted a picture of himself, on the phone, wearing his best Serious Face, to show just how Seriously he was taking his trans-Atlantic discussion about the Ukraine with Barack Obama.

Parodied mercilessly by the Twitteratti – including, amongst others, Sir Patrick Stewart – he responded in a huff with a picture of himself sitting listening to Bill Clinton, directing the message at Sir Pat and saying: “Talking to another US President, this time face to face, not on the phone.”

Now remember, this is the Prime Minister of the UK and not a petulant child, right?

Mind, after photobombing ‘that’ selfie at the Mandela memorial gig, you might wonder.

As only a sight aside, if you’re a well-known figure who’s going to do a photobomb, then do something like Benedict Cumberbatch pricking the pomposity of Bono at the Oscars.

Oh, Benedict – I love you!

But back to our central subject.

You can argue all you want about the appropriateness of senior, national politicians and parties using social media, but it’s here to stay.

In which case, you’d think the Conservative Party would have the sense to get someone in who actually knew what they were doing.

And for goodness sake, if I can do social media without any training, and the likes of the wonderful Sir Jean Luc Picard can make it look effortless and joyful, then you would not think it beyond the wit of the Tories to work out how to do it effectively.

But herein lies the problem.

They really think that they understand social media and that they can do it – but what they appear not to understand is that every time they do something like this, they increase the sense that they’re a bunch of toffs who are, at best, completely ignorant of how the majority live and love and die, and at worst, they really do consider all the rest of us to be mere plebs and themselves to be our born masters.

It is, as The Other Half suggested with a graphic tweet himself last night (see left), akin to Marie Antoinette’s approach to the hoi polloi.

But until they finally get this – if ever they are able – we can carry on laughing at something akin to an episode of The Thick of It, and wonder just when the next gaffe will emerge and from whom.

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