The Labour Party in the UK Dominates the Meme Battle, Yet Young Voters Find It All Extremely Awkward

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By Car Brand Experts

Right after the announcement of the UK general election on May 22, the meme warfare erupted. On social media platforms, both the Labour and Conservative factions unleashed a barrage of memes. From Labour’s popular TikTok featuring the iconic English entertainer and TV personality Cilla Black’s “Surprise! Surprise!” to mock the Conservative Party’s proposal for mandatory national service at 18, to the Conservatives’ TikTok video consisting of empty slides titled “Here are all of Labour’s policies.” Additional memes have been shared by Reform UK, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party in the buildup; simultaneously, the top two contenders in the polls have engaged in a witty banter on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and X.

“The mainstreaming of shitposting has begun,” stated political strategist Jack Spriggs of Cavendish Consulting, a specialist in the impact of TikTok on politics.

However, the responses to the meme battle have been polarized, especially amongst the Gen Z voters, varying from entertained to repelled. “Despite being conversation starters, it comes across as infantile,” remarked Maya Hollick, a 20-year-old voter from London. “They are trivializing a very serious event.”

The initiation of its TikTok account by the Labour Party coincided with the announcement of the election date on July 4 and has garnered over 200,000 followers since, posting numerous videos surpassing those of any other party. While many of its posts have received over a million views, its impact extends even further. “The true influence of TikTok lies not in how long content remains on the platform, but in how far it circulates,” explained Hannah O’Rourke, co-founder of Campaign Lab, an organization dedicated to researching campaign strategies.

“A meme serves as Labour’s tactic to draw attention to party policies,” O’Rourke elaborated, citing Labour’s viral Cilla Black TikTok.

WIRED interviewed students from the University of Bristol, with Bristol Central constituting a battleground where Labour and the Green Party, which also appeals to the youth, are leading. (Coincidentally, this writer is a student at the same university.) Some voters like Ed Sherwin, a 20-year-old student, expressed their skepticism towards the efficacy of memes: “I am not an avid TikTok user, though I came across the video,” he stated, referring to the Cilla Black meme. “However, it did not prompt me to delve into the national service policies. I did that after seeing it in the news.” Sherwin deemed the memes “somewhat pathetic and insensitive given the nation’s current predicament.”

Charlie Siret, a member of Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol, a youth faction of the climate-focused advocacy group XR, opined that Labour’s memes “lack transparency and are cringe-worthy” and “demonstrate a total absence of self-awareness,” whereas Conservative memes are “an insincere attempt to appeal to a generation that largely abhors them.”

Criticism was also directed at the oversimplification of political matters through the meme format. “The usage of memes suggests that young people require a dumbed-down version of politics—we possess more intellect than they assume,” asserted Grace Shropshire, 21. “Their advertising is swift, loud, and concise.” Marketing major Alisha Agarwal remarked that she “supports Labour, but not the excessively simplified manner in which they are promoting their campaign.”

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