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What Boris Johnson’s victory means for Brexit

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s victory puts Brexit on track — but this is just the beginning.

After winning a strong majority in the December 12 general election, Johnson returns as prime minister with the political capital to pull the U.K. out of the European Union in early 2020 and move onto negotiations about Britain’s future relationship with the bloc.

In his victory speech, Johnson declared the result puts the debate on a second Brexit referendum to bed.

“This election means that getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people. And this this election I think we put an end to all those little miserable threats of a second referendum,” he said.

Having insisted all Tory candidates backed the Brexit agreement he struck with Brussels in October, the prime minister can push his deal through the U.K. parliament without further delay.

“Parliament as a whole will be a lot more straightforward to deal with,” said a senior adviser to Johnson. “In terms of the immediate term after the general election, delivering the legislation for Brexit should be a very straightforward process in terms of the Withdrawal Agreement getting through the House, purely because we will be able to hold that majority together in a way that was not possible before as all candidates have endorsed the deal.”

The House of Commons is expected to vote on the deal again before Christmas. The House of Lords will then consider the plan and, once it is ratified by the U.K. parliament, the European Parliament would then vote on the deal. This process is expected to pass smoothly, enabling Johnson to stick to the current scheduled exit date of January 31, 2020.

Brussels said Friday it was ready to start the next phase of negotiations.

Attention will quickly turn to the transition phase, which keeps the U.K. trading with the EU on its existing terms until the end of December 2020. During this transition, Johnson will need to decide what kind of post-Brexit relationship he wants with the EU, spanning everything from trade to security, defense, fishing, data protection and science.

If he can’t strike a trade deal during this transition phase, the U.K. would leave the EU with no deal and would trade with its nearest neighbor on World Trade Organization terms.

In their 2019 manifesto, the Tories promised not to extend the Brexit transition period, though with such a large majority and having broken plenty of promises in the past, Johnson could still seek more time.

Brussels, for its part, said Friday it was ready to start the next phase of negotiations. Speaking at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels shortly after an exit poll had suggested a strong majority for the Conservative Party, European Council President Charles Michel said EU leaders were “ready for the next steps.”

“We are ready for the next steps. We will see if it is possible for the British parliament to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, and to take a decision,” he said. “And if it is the case, we are ready for the next steps. We have a way of working in order to guarantee the unity of the European countries, to guarantee the transparency and to try to keep a close cooperation with the United Kingdom.”

EU27 leaders will discuss Brexit later Friday at the end of their summit in Brussels.

Clock starts ticking again

“The day after the Withdrawal Agreement goes through parliament then the problems start all over,” said Richard Whitman, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent. “By setting this tight deadline to negotiate the future relationship without clearly articulating all aspects of that relationship and planning to end the transition so early, what the British government has already done is creating the script for the opposition in parliament.”

The first step for Johnson’s government is to set the U.K.’s priorities for this second round of negotiations.

During the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, the EU set the agenda and decided the order in which topics would be addressed. This was accepted by former Prime Minister Theresa May, at the price of losing negotiating power, and was harshly criticized by her hard-line Brexiteer colleagues.

This time, it would be in the U.K.’s interest for the talks on the different elements of the future relationship to be negotiated in parallel, since this would allow for trade-offs between issues and better time management given the pressure of the December 2020 deadline.

Johnson has not yet indicated how he might proceed in this regard, but diplomats from EU member states agree that the December 2020 deadline is unrealistic for both parties to reach a comprehensive deal on their future relationship. They expect the British prime minister to break his manifesto pledge and request an extension to the transition at some point in the summer.

The British government is likely to continue to prepare for a potential cliff-edge in December 2020.

It is possible, however, that Johnson pursues a more limited deal, something German officials have indicated might be possible.

Given the magnitude of the future relationship negotiations, some EU leaders would like the transition to last as long as might be needed to reach a comprehensive deal on the future relationship, rather than getting it done quickly. Thus they are more inclined towards giving the U.K. a longer extension than those granted during the Brexit deal talks — of up to two or three years.

During the transition period, a joint U.K.-EU committee will oversee the implementation of the Brexit deal and judge whether both parties are living up to their commitments. Regardless of the evolution of the future relationship talks, the transition itself might open up opportunities for further clashes between London and Brussels.

“The transition is an untried experiment for the EU,” said Whitman. “And we are still yet to see how that joint committee is going to work. The longer the transition, the higher the likelihood that something is going to emerge that is going to be tricky. But the shorter the transition, the more difficult it is to get a deal [on the future relationship]. It is a sort of a catch-22 situation.”

The next cliff-edge

In parallel, the British government is likely to continue to prepare for a potential cliff-edge in December 2020.

This scenario terrifies U.K. businesses, which complain they have wasted billions in preparing for a no-deal situation three times during the last two years. Johnson will have to decide at what point his government starts communicating to British industry about any potential changes that might affect them.

John Foster, director of campaigns at the CBI trade body, said a Conservative majority should enable a “smooth and orderly withdrawal,” but hopes the second phase of the negotiations yields a U.K.-EU trade deal that keeps Britain aligned with Brussels on regulations and delivers for the U.K. service industries.

“We would want to work with the government in a genuine constructive partnership on how we can get the right business architecture in place to make sure the second phase is guided by the economic evidence provided by business,” he said. “The focus needs to be on getting the right outcome for our economy, to ensure that [any free-trade agreement] is a deal that has alignment on the rules [with the EU] in order to facilitate frictionless trade and delivers for our world-leading service industries. At the moment, the government’s political declaration is light on services, and that is where the U.K. has so much to offer.”

Government machine

Johnson will also have to consider whether the structure of the British government is fit for the second phase of the talks, something long discussed in Whitehall.

As the prime minister overseeing the U.K.’s repositioning in the world, Johnson must decide how involved he would like to be in the day-to-day decision-making on future relationship negotiations with Brussels. He might hand over some responsibility to the Cabinet Office — and more precisely to current no-deal preparations supremo Michael Gove, who is regarded as a safe pair of hands.

A strong leader — either Johnson, Gove or somebody else — will be needed in order to keep all the secretary of states in line, according to Joe Owen, a researcher at the Institute for Government. “There will be some departments that would have different agendas in the negotiations in terms of priorities in the negotiations. Not least within that, you have the Department for International Trade, where they will be thinking ‘the looser the arrangement with the EU, the more space that we have to play with the U.S. or any other country,’” he said.

Conservative officials expect a government reshuffle shortly, to prepare Whitehall for the second phase of the negotiations.

The future existence of the Brexit department is also up in the air, although there will still be a role for its civil servants in coordinating the preparations for a cliff-edge situation and providing analytical support for the U.K. team negotiating the future relationship.

“Our view is that you’re better carrying out the negotiations through the Cabinet Office as the central player, which does not have its own departmental agenda and it is still seen as a coordinating function that supports the prime minister,” said Owen. “Whereas if you move the negotiations’ responsibility under another secretary of state, and they don’t have the exact same agenda as the prime minister, there is potential for problems such as the divisions we saw between Theresa May and [the former Brexit secretaries] David Davies and Dominic Raab.”

What kind of Brexit?

Johnson’s victory gives him considerable scope to negotiate whatever kind of future relationship with the EU he wants.

“Lots of the new MPs are going to be very clear that Boris Johnson is the reason why they are a Conservative MP and I think there will be a huge amount of faith in him to deliver as he is very good at communicating and taking the parliamentary party with him,” said a former Johnson adviser. “I don’t see any reason why he won’t continue to rise to these challenges, albeit it is going to be a challenge trying to keep these groups together as the future relationship is negotiated.”

Nor does the prime minister need to keep factions within his party onside. Whereas groups such as the European Research Group of Brexiteers held huge sway over the Conservative governments before this election, the party’s large majority now means the prime minister can afford to ignore considerable opposition in his ranks and still pass votes in the House of Commons.

However, the EU may prove harder to crack, especially with a ticking clock on the transition period. Johnson will need to weigh up possible economic benefits of further delays to a Brexit trade deal against the political downside of failing to meet the Tories’ manifesto commitment.

Why UK national election polls flatter the Tories

The U.K. election campaign so far has been a story of two parallel squeezes.

The polls suggest that the Tories have been very successful at bringing together the Leave vote under their banner. At the same time, Labour has done the same with Remain voters — although not as successfully.

Yet one key point should give pause to anyone trying to predict the result: There are still large numbers of undecided voters.

When MPs voted on October 30 to hold the election in December, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were on 38 percent with Labour on 26 percent. The Lib Dems were on 17 percent and the Brexit Party was on 10 percent (that’s according to an amalgamation of survey results for POLITICO’s poll of polls). Since Nigel Farage announced that his party would not contest Tory-held seats, his party’s support has collapsed to just 3 percent while the Lib Dems have drifted downwards to 12 percent.

With both main parties benefiting from this dual squeeze (they now stand at 43 percent and 34 percent) the difference between Labour and the Tories has mostly been a plus-10 point lead for the latter. This made an outright Conservative majority the most likely outcome, until very recently when the lead began to shrink.

A number of constituency races are in fact too close to call and could go either way.

In a first-past-the-post electoral system, national polls alone are a poor predictor of the actual seat distribution in the next parliament. In today’s fragmented political landscape there is no such thing as a national swing — so using it to produce a national seat projection will be way off the mark.

A more sophisticated approach is YouGov’s MRP model (it stands for Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification model). That combines massive sampling on the ground — over 100,000 people across the country compared with 1,000-2,000 in a typical national poll — with some clever modeling using demographic characteristics to hone predictions in individual constituencies. That polling method at the end of November was predicting a Conservative majority of 68 seats but the second iteration, released Tuesday night, put the projected Tory majority at 28 seats.

A number of constituency races are in fact too close to call and could go either way though, leaving us with the conclusion that while a small Conservative majority is still the most likely outcome, a hung parliament in which no party has a majority is still a distinct possibility. With the Conservative lead dropping during the fieldwork period, according to YouGov the poll may end up overestimating the Tory result.

Another important data point to consider is the high number of undecided voters. Women are over-represented among this group and they tend to have a less favorable view of Johnson than men (38 percent versus 46 percent, according to YouGov).

UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

And voters who are leaning toward the Liberal Democrats appear to be uncertain about where to cast their ballot. Wile 80 percent of Conservative voters said in a December poll by Ipsos they had definitely decided to vote for their party, only 61 percent of Lib Dem supporters said the same. Where those undecided voters end up on election day will mean the difference between a solid Tory majority and a hung parliament.

Sign up for free to POLITICO’s UK 2019 Election Sprint newsletter and catch up with our daily snapshot of key moments in the run up to the U.K.’s December 12 general election and immediately afterwards.

Political ads on Facebook disappeared ahead of UK election

Almost half of British political ads on Facebook — worth a combined £7.4 million — disappeared from the social media giant’s online records for more than 24 hours, only days before the United Kingdom’s general election, according to analysis provided to POLITICO.

The failure of the company’s transparency tools is a major blow to Facebook’s efforts to shine a greater spotlight on how political groups use its platform to target voters amid growing pressure from lawmakers across Europe, the United States and elsewhere over the tech giant’s role in elections worldwide.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, had said that greater awareness of who was buying political ads — accessed by an online database provided by the company — was the best way to fight potential electoral interference. These efforts, in part, were a response to growing regulatory demands for tougher rules on how groups could buy partisan digital messages aimed at voters.

Yet the failure of Facebook’s system only two days before the U.K.’s vote was a high-profile misstep for the company as it looks to buy goodwill with officials from London to Washington ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election.

In total, 40 percent of U.K. political ads, or 74,000 messages, on Facebook became inaccessible through the company’s transparency tools, according to Laura Edelson, a computer scientist at New York University who has been tracking digital political ad spend ahead of the December 12 vote.

Her figures included all ads since the transparency tools became available in the U.K. in October 2018, and were based on her previously scraping all existing paid-for messages in the U.K. from a database provided by Facebook and then comparing those figure to what was currently available.

The total amount of ads that had become inaccessible was also based on Edelson calculating an overall figure based on data provided by Facebook.

“This is not how this is supposed to work,” Edelson told POLITICO. “Facebook should be proactively telling the transparency community what has happened. That didn’t happen in this case.”

Other experts also flagged that paid-for messages had disappeared from Facebook’s transparency registries in other countries, including the U.S. The issue arose on December 9, but was only flagged to the company on Tuesday.

In response, Facebook said it had fixed a bug in its transparency tool and all U.K. political ads were back online.

No rhyme or reason

Despite Facebook’s efforts, there was no pattern to which political ads had become inaccessible for the period between December 9 and 10 in the U.K., according to NYU’s Edelson.

But 20 percent of all Conservative Party ads, worth a combined £121,000, disappeared, versus 43 percent of Labour Party messages, valued at £243,000 according to the analysis of Facebook’s data. Similarly, 60 percent of all Liberal Democrat ads, totalling £366,000, were unavailable in the U.K.

In total, roughly £1.1 million worth of ads were inaccessible from the country’s traditional political parties, while the majority of paid-for messages, valued at £6.3 million, originated from third-party groups, according to the analysis of Facebook data.

During the current election campaign, which began on November 7, 24,000 ads worth a collective £1.3 million, or just under half of all political ad spending, had disappeared from Facebook’s transparency tools.

In recent days, the Conservatives started to spend large amounts of money, often linked to their messaging around Brexit, to entice would-be supporters to back them. In contrast, Labour focused primarily on non-Brexit areas like investment in the National Health Service.

Much of the understanding of how political groups have targeted voters has come through access to Facebook’s transparency tools as the company’s services — which also include Instagram and WhatsApp — represent roughly 80 percent of all digital election spending, based on a review on the transparency reports of both the social media giant and Google.

But without a clear understanding of how campaigns and third-party groups are using these platforms to promote their messages ahead of December 12, it would have been difficult for both regulators and civil society groups to track how the U.K.’s election is playing out online.

This story was updated with additional information.

Everything you need to know about the UK’s digital election

LONDON — With days to go before the U.K. heads to the polls on December 12, all the traditional political parties — and lots of third-party groups — are doing all they can to woo would-be voters online.

Digital attack ads against their opponents. Spreading potential misleading facts on social media. Even slightly cringeworthy parody videos of “Love Actually.”

So far, partisan groups have spent more than £2 million on digital campaigning ahead of Thursday’s vote, a figure that will likely exceed what was spent the last time the U.K. went to the polls in 2017.

After holding back somewhat in the first few weeks of the campaign, the Conservatives are now turning everything up to 11 with a major outlay on Facebook political ads in a rerun of the Leave campaign strategy ahead of the Brexit referendum in 2016.

In response, non-affiliated actors (though often with ties to some of the political parties, notably Labour) are also spending big in the final days to counter some of the Conservatives’ messaging. Much of that focuses on either anti-Brexit ads or calls for people to vote tactically to keep Boris Johnson out of No. 10 Downing Street.

Here’s what you need to know:

What are these ads and who are they targeting?

Roughly 80 percent of online politicking is done on Facebook (and the company’s other services like Instagram and Messenger). The company allows political groups to use its massive dataset of users to pinpoint messages — based on gender, demographics, socio-economic factors, or all of the above — to groups of people across the country.

That’s particularly true in close-run races where political parties have tailored ads around specific local issues like the closing of a police station or investment in a nearby hospital.

How is this different from leaflet campaigns?

It’s definitely true that social media advertising isn’t much different from the decades-old practice that saw local parties mine the U.K.’s electoral register of voters to send pamphlets through people’s letterboxes.

What is different is the scale, and in particular the cost of reaching that scale. With a few hundred pounds, anyone can create and distribute partisan messages to different voters across a single constituency — or across the whole country — with a speed and accuracy that makes old-school leaflets look like they’re from the dark ages.

What types of messages are the political parties promoting online?

It’s much the same as offline politicking. The Conservatives have focused primarily on their pro-Brexit stance, with attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader. Interestingly, they’ve struck a more update upbeat note on Johnson’s own Facebook page where the messages are both more positive and aimed at younger voters.

By contrast, Labour is talking about anything other than Brexit. Initially, the priority was to attack the Conservatives and their record in government. But in recent weeks, the tone has shifted to the party’s own priorities, like its planned investment in the National Health Service.

For their part, the Liberal Democrats went at full pelt with their promise to scrap Brexit. But when that message didn’t strike a chord with voters, the party’s Facebook ads shifted to claim that only the Liberal Democrats could stop the Conservatives from winning an outright majority.

UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Is Russia meddling in the digital election?

There’s no evidence of any foreign interference, either through divisive paid-for messaging on Facebook from unknown (possibly foreign) groups or elsewhere. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening, it’s just that linking such tactics directly to the Kremlin or other governments is maddeningly difficult.

But what is true is that leaked documents between U.K. and U.S. negotiators around a possible post-Brexit free-trade deal did get onto the web in what increasingly looks like a Russian-style operation.

What is the government doing about that?

The security services are looking into it, but we won’t know exactly what happened until months, if not years, after the election.

More troubling, successive governments haven’t updated the country’s electoral rules in response to the growth of digital electioneering, meaning a lot of what goes on online is either unknown, misunderstood or out of regulators’ hands.

Sign up for free to POLITICO’s UK 2019 Election Sprint newsletter and catch up with our daily snapshot of key moments in the run up to the U.K.’s December 12 general election and immediately afterwards.

How Jeremy Corbyn’s activist army is taking lessons from the US

LONDON — Two white-haired lefties on opposite sides of the Atlantic hope an enthusiastic youth movement can propel them to power — and their activists have teamed up in pursuit of victory.

Momentum, the campaign group that propelled Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the U.K. Labour Party in 2015, has sought advice from supporters of U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on how best organize grassroots volunteers as they push for victory in Britain’s upcoming election.

Deploying a strategy known as “distributed organizing,” which fueled Sanders’ expectation-defying challenge for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Momentum’s leadership hopes to use volunteers to extend their reach and to get around the spending limits mandated by U.K law.

This involves developing a loose network of volunteers across the country and giving them digital tools to coordinate their activities. Volunteers are trained to do work that would otherwise have been managed by a centralized campaign, such as organizing events, creating campaign videos and knocking on doors.

In the spring, two 2016 Sanders organizers — Becky Bond and Zack Malitz — flew to London to help Momentum prepare for a snap election. Bond came to the U.K. again in the late summer alongside Jo Beardsmore, founder of anti-austerity protest group UK Uncut. Beardsmore now lives in California but is working with Momentum for the duration of the campaign.

Momentum’s leadership hopes to use volunteers to extend their reach and to get around the spending limits mandated by U.K law.

Bond, who has co-written a book on distributed organizing, is based in the U.S. but visits the U.K. regularly and advises Momentum. She joined conference calls with Labour activists last month, telling them there is a “huge capacity in the grassroots that’s just waiting to be called into service.”

“Some of you are going to need to travel across the country to places where full-time canvassers are urgently needed to talk to voters key to winning crucial seats,” she told volunteers. “Some of you will stay for a week in those places; some for two weeks. You may have relatives that you can stay with; you may find local supporters that you don’t know, but who will put you up.

“The time for strategizing is over. We know what we have to do, and we have to do it in massive numbers enough to win.”

And while help from across the Atlantic is welcome in Britain, Sanders’ team also hopes success for Labour will boost their campaign back home.

Jeremy Corbyn poses for photos during a UK general election advertising launch on December 4, 2019 | Darren Staples/Getty Images

“The left in the U.S. is watching the U.K. general election very closely,” Bond said. “An upset win by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party would be a huge shot in the arm for activists in the U.S. pushing for the similar policies.”

Another Sanders organizer who has worked with Momentum said the two campaigns share “similar kinds of politics” and “a lot of shared goals.”

“We’ve got lots of volunteers here who are very much into Corbyn and want to see him succeed,” the organizer said.

Momentum’s Corbyn problem

Momentum has a mountain to climb if Corbyn stands any chance of making it to Downing Street.

With just a week to go until polling day, Labour is still trailing well behind the Tories, according to POLITICO’s poll of polls. There is a “close to zero” chance of Corbyn winning a majority, according to leading pollster John Curtice, so he would need to team up with smaller parties to become prime minister.

While many on the left admire Momentum’s tactics, there is widespread concern that Corbyn himself is a problem for Labour.

“The gap between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson is enormous,” said Joe Twyman, director of Deltapoll, pointing to his company’s latest results. Corbyn’s net personal rating is minus 39, with just 27 percent of those surveyed saying he is performing well. Boris Johnson had a net personal rating of 2.

John McTernan, who worked as a political strategist for former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the problem is “the product not the presentation.”

“We don’t know how many Let’s Go groups there are now. The whole point of it [is that it] would just grow like topsy” — Laura Parker, national Momentum coordinator 

“I’m a strong supporter of what Momentum do in terms of training, campaigning and canvassing. The mobilization of people on the ground and on social media is a very effective part of the Labour ground war,” he said. “If you ever talk to Conservatives they feel outgunned on the ground and outgunned on social media.”

But he added: “Labour are losing because the product and the leadership are not popular enough across the country.”

Momentum, which is headquartered in Finsbury Park, north London, has seen its staff grow from around 15 people before the election was called, to more than 50 now.

Laura Parker, Momentum’s national coordinator, said their approach is to give “activists the encouragement, the tools, a bit of training, access to information and then just letting them run with it.”

The group has launched two online campaigns with the explicit aim of recruiting as big an army of volunteers as possible.

Labour party activists campaign in north London on December 2, 2019 | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

The first is a drive encouraging volunteers to set up “Let’s Go” groups on WhatsApp, Facebook and by email, asking friends and family members to campaign for Labour. The underlying philosophy is that people are most easily persuaded by people they know. Seasoned activists can also set up training events to teach newcomers how to convince wavering voters.

“We don’t know how many Let’s Go groups there are now,” Parker said. “The whole point of it [is that it] would just grow like topsy.”

The same tactic was deployed by the Sanders campaign, which directed people who had posted supportive social media content via its smartphone app to text others and encourage them to get involved. Sanders’ team estimated that it had reached the same number of votes through this method as it would have from knocking on 63,000 doors.

Momentum’s second campaign, Labour Legends, was also imported from the U.S. It encourages people to take at least a week off work to help the election effort full-time.

A separate tool, My Plan to Win, lets volunteers organize their actions for the final stretch of the campaign.

“Last time we understood — and this is partly from working with the people from the Bernie Sanders campaign who we’re still collaborating with — is that if you make a bigger ask, you get a bigger response,” said Parker.

Labour activists listen to an address from Jeremy Corbyn at a campaign rally on December 1, 2019 | Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

More than 1,500 people have signed up to become “Labour Legends,” with people committing to set aside 2.6 weeks to campaign on average. Parker said Momentum liaises with constituency Labour parties to send volunteers wherever they’re most needed.

Those who can’t go out door-knocking are encouraged to set up “phone bank parties” at home with their friends, using a Labour Party smartphone app to call voters.

Within 48 hours of the election being called, Momentum launched a web tool to distribute these volunteers, called My Campaign Map. Activists can punch in their postcode to see a list of events in areas where they can have the most impact. The selection is based on how tight the race for each seat is and how much campaigning activity it has seen, with data fed in by activists. Volunteers can also upload their canvassing groups so that others can join, and organize voluntary “road trips” to travel to several key constituencies.

It’s a step up from Momentum’s 2017 website, which directed campaigners to their nearest tight battleground. That proved to be a blunt instrument: Labour’s majority ballooned in places flooded with activists while the party narrowly missed out on other constituencies that the website hadn’t categorized as winnable.

“We’re not going to have any wasted time,” Momentum organizer Callum Cant told a planning call of 1,500 volunteers on October 30. “This time, our campaign will be much more data-driven, and we’ll be encouraging to go to marginals that need you the most.”

‘Digital army’

This decentralized approach means Momentum can scale up beyond the restrictions set by electoral spending limits. Electoral Commission regulations say that non-party campaigners can spend a maximum of £584,817 across the U.K., with no more than £9,750 spent in any individual constituency.

But if volunteers are funding their own travel to battleground seats; if they are finding people who will host them for free; and if they are sharing content in social media organically, reducing the need for digital advertising, then Momentum’s reach becomes significantly larger.

For its own spending, Momentum — like Sanders’ campaign — relies on volunteer donations. It raised over £200,000 in the first 48 hours after the election was called, and has now amassed nearly £500,000. This figure is dwarfed by the amount collected by both Labour and the Conservatives, who have raised millions during the campaign.

Digital volunteers can also amplify the work done by professional campaigners. Momentum’s videos are among the most-viewed political ads on social media, with several racking up more than a million views.

“We’re encouraging our activists to get their phone out and tell us why they’re voting Labour …We know that people trust people” — Laura Parker

Momentum employs just a handful of people to produce its sleek “blockbuster production” videos — such as this one where the Joker takes Batman to task for not paying his taxes — according to Parker, many of which deploy a riskier tone that those produced by the Labour Party itself. “Jeremy can’t have a film out with the word clusterf*** in the title,” Parker said.

The group has a dedicated team that watches political TV shows, clipping and sharing Labour politicians’ rhetorical victories and Tory slip-ups.

Volunteers are urged to make their own content via an initiative called #VideosByTheMany.

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