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Corbyn winning the battle for Labour’s digital soul

Twitter is the latest platform Jeremy Corbyn has taken by storm, according to research from specialist digital and marketing recruiter EMR

Twitter is the latest platform Jeremy Corbyn has taken by storm, according to research from specialist digital and marketing recruiter EMR. While the long-serving MP may have been little known before the 2015 election, he now commands 34 per cent of the leadership hopefuls’ combined Twitter following – five per cent more than second place Andy Burnham.

Earlier this year the political parties’ social media following accurately predicted the outcome of May’s general election, with EMR’s measure of aggregated social media ‘likes’ successfully forecasting the Conservatives would enjoy a strong majority victory over Labour. This was in stark contrast to the traditional pollsters, who have been heavily criticised for wrongly predicting the Tories would win most seats but, unable to form a majority, the UK would end up with an Ed Miliband-led government.

Due to the previous success of its social media metric, EMR predicts Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour Party leadership contest, but with only five per cent of the Twitter vote between him and Andy Burnham, the race might be closer than some expect.

Serrol Osman, managing director at EMR, commented: “Effective and meaningful social media engagement is now just as important in the realm of politics as it is for UK businesses seeking to interact with their customers and clients. The evidence of this was no clearer than in the run up to May’s general election. The political parties’ aggregate likes and endorsements across social media translated into an overall Tory digital majority, which accurately predicted the outcome of the last general election – a coup for the Tories and David Cameron, but an unmitigated disaster for the traditional pollsters.

“Jeremy Corbyn has struck the right chord with the public through his interactions on Twitter and given digital endorsement is now a highly accurate barometer in the political sphere, we predict his lead on this platform will earn him the biggest share of the vote. It will be interesting to see if Corbyn’s rivals now seek to improve their use of this tool, even with ballot papers now in the post, and whether the impact of social media on UK politics in 2015 will cause all parties to fight harder for the electorate’s digital attention in future.”

Given the mechanics of the Labour Party’s electoral system, this lead may not be enough to ensure that Corbyn will be successful in his pursuit of the leadership. Labour’s Alternative Vote system will kick in if no candidate attracts at least 50 per cent of the vote, which means voters’ second choices, or even third, could carry a significant amount of weight.

Corbyn’s 34 per cent Twitter vote share does not therefore give him enough votes to win outright during the first round of the leadership ballot, leaving him exposed to tactical second-preference bloc voting from Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supporters.

Pollsters have noted that Corbyn has built an enormous following among Labour supporters and the general public, who have been attracted to his politics of hope. YouGov1 places the Islington MP 32 points ahead of the competition, and ultimately in line to lead the Party in opposition from September.

Table: Labour Party leadership candidates’ share of Twitter following, translated into votes. Compiled by EMR