Leave.EU-Backed Raheem Had Little Real Support, Despite Social Media Lead


The social media profiles of UKIP’s leadership candidates show Raheem Kassam was far ahead of his rivals before he pulled out this morning. The best indicator of online campaign support was the twibbon, where supporters add a campaign slogan to their social media profiles. Raheem had 1,326 twibbons, dwarfing leadership favourite Nuttall’s 214 – and yet all the signs indicate that Nuttall will win. Despite the online support Kassam admitted this morning that one of the reasons for quitting was he couldn’t raise enough money: “While we raised enough for our deposit, and got over 200 assentors to my nomination, we could not raise enough for this to be more than a digital campaign run from SW1”. What does this tell us about the relative importance of digital campaigning?

This has implications for Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign group set up by multi-millionaire businessman Arron Banks, which backed Raheem. Leave.EU claims their huge social media reach* helped create “an extraordinary mass movement, drawing in swathes of voters neglected by the main political parties.” Banks has hinted that this will be the kernel for a new “people’s movement”. Banks is confusing “likes”, “follows” and casual clicktivism with active support. Leave.EU bought Facebook “likes” essentially by buying traffic.

Digital campaigns which enable commitment; donations, offline meetings, phone banking and membership drives do actually achieve something. Campaigns which generate clicks, petition signings and social flag counts are just virtue signalling. The casual easy click is no more substantive or permanent than what is trending online at any moment. Guido speaks as someone who garnered a million signatures and emails in one campaign, Banks has not got the beginnings of a popular movement, he has captured the virtue signals of a moment…

*As Dominic Cummings rightly points out, Facebook’s algorithms mean that Leave EU’s half-a-million “likes” are just a form of digital dick-waving, they achieve nothing in terms of visibility or extending reach. Leave.EU has less than half as many Twitter followers as @GuidoFawkes