By Nicolle Laurie, Consultant, London
With political parties urging young people to register to vote this week it was only going to be a matter of time before politicians took advantage of the power of social media. On Monday, Facebook (who reminded all of its users to register to vote on national voter registration day) and Sky teamed up as part of its ‘Stand Up and Be counted’ campaign and hosted a Q&A with David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Natalie Bennett at Facebook HQ. There were 60 young audience members keen to question the party leaders, and plenty of viewers posted questions. The Prime Minister was apparently the last one to RSVP to the event, despite the BBC releasing documents this week that the Conservative Party are spending over £100,000 a month on Facebook. In comparison, Labour has spent less than £10,000 on the social media platform. The social media battle has truly begun!
Labour came under criticism from the Chief Executive of Boots, Stefano Pessina, for their tax policy, and in a bid to quell any suggestion that the Labour Party are anti-business, Ed Balls appeared on Newsnight. Asked for the name of a single business leader who supported his party, he could only muster ‘Bill somebody’. Bill Thomas is the name he was searching for, Labour’s small business taskforce chair and former Executive Vice-President of EDS. Cameron happily reminded everyone about the faux par at PMQs this week when he suggested that ‘Bill somebody’ was really Labour’s policy. Ed Miliband‘s week was equally difficult, not only in terms of defending Labour’s business policy but also dealing with the media fallout from the scathing criticism of a Welsh Labour aide, describing him as an “out of touch Chuckle brother”, marking the first time the Chuckle Brothers had been raised at PMQs.
The impact of the Scottish referendum continues to resonate in Westminster. Lord Ashcroftreleased a worrying poll for Labour showing an overall swing to the SNP of 25.4% in Labour-held constituencies in Scotland, whilst the Conservatives unveiled their EVEL plans (English Votes for English Laws). Many feel that Labour has the most to lose with the introduction of these proposals, which William Hague announced will restrict the role of Scottish MPs in Westminster. Gordon Brown, who many feel saved the day for the ‘NO ’campaign, quickly criticised Cameron for acting with ‘huge cynicism’ and driving a wedge between MPs north and south of the border. This issue is undoubtedly set to rumble on.
Nick Clegg on the other hand has been focusing on the economy from the 52nd floor of the Shard. Together with Danny Alexander, Clegg launched the Liberal Democrats economic programme for the next five years if they were to be elected in May. This has been met with praise for being the most detailed economic plan laid out by any party, thus far.
‘Education, education, education’ was also on the agenda for both Labour and the Conservatives, with the Prime Minister making a speech in North London saying that a future Conservative government would continue to pay the flat amount of money that a school receives per pupil though would not increase with inflation. Meanwhile, Labour spoke about their plans to make Sex and Relationship Education compulsory in all states school and stamp out homophobic bullying. It certainly felt like “To me, to you” on the timing of these announcements around similar policy issues. Expect a lot more of this in the weeks to come!