‘We Can Spot Fakery a Mile Off’: Labour’s Memes Are an Insult to Young Voters

They want tangible policies, not ‘Lord Farquaad’.

by Chloe Laws

1 July 2024

A woman looks angrily back at her partner in bed in a stock photo that has become a popular meme template.
The Labour party had to delete its take on the ‘I bet he’s thinking about other women’ meme after it was criticised for being misogynistic.

Back in 2019, social media posts by major political parties were almost always dry and informative. It was clear that most parties either didn’t understand social media or considered it unprofessional to engage in trends. This has changed dramatically over the last twelve months as Labour, the Tories, and even the Lib Dems make misguided attempts to engage young voters on their home turf. As a social media consultant – yes boomers, it’s a real job – I watched their endeavours with keen interest. It didn’t take long for this to turn into cringing second-hand embarrassment. And then, over time, anger.

Young voters don’t want stand-up comedians as politicians, they want tangible policies. New social media tactics are an attempt to lure in young voters by using their language, but without offering them anything real – and it’s insulting that both Labour and the Tories think they’ll fall for it. “We can spot fakery and disingenuous behaviour from a mile off,” 25-year-old social media manager Zoë Daniel told Novara Media. “Young people just want politicians who genuinely care for their welfare, acknowledge mistakes, and back up their apologies with real actions.”

A screenshot of a Labour TikTok video attacking Rishi Sunak
Photo: TikTok/ the Labour Party

In April, Labour hired a dedicated employee to work with influencers and seed positive messages about the party on TikTok and Instagram. While this might seem excessive, it makes sense to invest in the social platforms that young adults use most: a 2023 Pew survey found that one-third of people under 30 regularly scroll TikTok for news, up 255% since 2020.

The far right has been using social media effectively for years. In a 2021 research paper, ‘It’s Not Funny Anymore: Far-right Extremists’ Use of Humour’, the European Commission reported that: “At a time in which memes have become a universal means of communication, far-right groups have recognised this popular potential for politicisation. They put a lot of time and energy into meme production, spread their ideology – sometimes more, sometimes less openly – and act according to the motto: if the meme is good, the content cannot be bad.”

Humour is used by the alt and far right, the report concluded, to hook people in before radicalising them. This general election, we’ve seen this done frighteningly well by Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, who currently has almost three times as many followers on his TikTok account as Labour and the Tories put together. Alongside Keir Starmer takedowns and tongue-in-cheek humour, a video of Farage singing Eminem’s ‘Guess Who’s Back’ (not to beat) has over eight million views.

There’s some worrying new evidence that Reform’s online popularity is translating into actual support among younger voters: according to YouGov, although Labour is still the most popular party among Gen Z voters, 18-24-year-olds are now more likely to support Reform than the next youngest voters, 25-29-year-olds.


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While it makes sense for Labour and the Tories to try and emulate Reform’s success with real investment in their social media, the problem is, they’re just not very good at it. “I think that political parties using memes and trends is a clear way to make them seem relatable, but they can be extremely hit or miss,” Eliza Rodgers, a 21-year-old from London, told Novara Media.

Rather than translating meaningful policies into shareable social content, it feels to young people that politicians are trying to divert attention away from what little they actually have to offer them. Gen Z has been found to have an unprecedented level of climate anxiety, for instance, but the Labour manifesto is eminently underwhelming on the issue, lacking both detail and ambition. Its pledge for clean power by 2030 is only marginally ahead of the Tories’ target of 2035.

Young people deserve more than memes, they deserve: affordable housing, a functioning healthcare system, accessible university education for all, a government that takes the climate crisis seriously, and a society that doesn’t have to use the term ‘cost of living’. As it stands, no one seems to be offering them this.

“It’s fine to meet Gen Z where they are with the information that they [Labour and the Tories] want to convey via social media,” Daniel said, “but trying to be something they are not is cringe, and if anything dissuades myself as a younger voter, as it’s clear that it lacks authenticity … Young voters care deeply about authenticity, integrity, and sincerity.”

Rodgers said she does occasionally find Labour’s memes amusing, especially those that mock other parties. However, the notion that something this trivial could influence her vote – with no meaningful change on the table – is also laughable: “Labour could have good memes, but I’m still gonna vote Green,” she said.

While they continue to lack substance, Labour and the Torie’s foray into meme culture is only ever going to be embarrassing. Both parties are late to the game and it shows. Unlike Reform UK, they are also holding back, and Gen-Z can spot their trepidation. They seem unconfident in their ability to make social media work for them, with their efforts feeling like a stab in the dark. I’m paid to make social media strategies for brands and press, and I can tell that Labour does not have a comprehensive one.

Let’s take a look at the times they’ve got it most wrong.

The worst of the bunch.

1. Definitely Written by a Man – the Labour party.

In April, Labour faced criticism for a social media meme about housing, which many dubbed ‘misogynistic.’ The now-deleted post received backlash from several of the party’s own female MPs, with Rosie Duffield saying: “Women, especially Labour MPs, have not well received this advert. It is sexist and also the point of it is completely unclear.”

The meme depicted a woman lying in bed, looking at her partner, with text that read, Her: “I bet he’s thinking about other women.” Meanwhile, the man is depicted as thinking about Labour’s newly announced housebuilding policy and Keir Starmer’s plans to develop brownfield sites.

Image: X/ the Labour party

2. Lord Farquaad farce – the Labour party

On TikTok, Labour posted a clip from the iconic animated film Shrek, in which cartoon villain Lord Farquaad says, “Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.” They titled it: “Rishi Sunak announcing national service”.

Again, the party later took it down, despite it racking up over two million views. It made no statement about why, but I would guess that they got in trouble over copyright breaches (they pulled another TikTok, which featured a clip from the first Harry Potter film, for the same reason.) Which begs the question: If you can’t run a social media team, how are you going to run the country?

Shrek character Lord Farquaad overlaid with the text "Rishi Sunak annoucing national service".
Image: Tiktok/ the Labour party

3. I’ve Been a Nasty Girl – the Labour party.

Whoever is managing Labour’s TikTok account is bold, that’s for sure. Four days ago, they posted a carousel set to Tinashe’s viral song ‘Nasty’, titled ‘Sh*t facts the Tories don’t want you to know’. It’s a world away from Starmer’s stuffiness, I’ll give them that.

Image: TikTok/ the Labour party

4.  Successfully…Making Angela Rayner Look Cool – the Conservative party.

The Tories have, arguably, made more social media blunders than any other UK party. And that’s saying a lot. Last month, they accidentally gave Angela Rayner some good PR, despite their intention to do opposite.

Image: X/ the Conservative party

5. Clangers All Round – the Conservative party.

The Conservative party launched its first TikTok video in May 2024, featuring a dull face-to-camera segment with Rishi Sunak. Despite garnering over four million views, the reception was flat and unimpressed. With just over 66,000 followers, the Conservatives are struggling on the digital battlefield, significantly trailing behind Reform UK, who have 196% more followers.

@ukconservatives This will change lives #nationalservice #generalelection #uk #rishisunak ♬ original sound – Conservatives

Chloe Laws is a freelance journalist and founder of FGRLS CLUB. She contributes to Novara Media’s social media. 

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