The Memeification Of The UK’s Political Parties

04 June 2024
by Annie-Mai Hodge
TikTok App is displayed on smartphone screen, TikTok logo is blurred in the background

Things can only get better, right? And no, we’re not talking about the D:Ream song blasting from a nearby street while Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, called for a general election. We’re talking about the social media strategies of the UK’s three major political parties - the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour. 

Social media has gone hand in hand with political campaigns over the last decade, and it’s no different for this election. However, the use of TikTok (despite the app being banned on government devices) is new territory, and some online users are dubbing this as “the first TikTok election”. 

And since the announcement of the general election, it looks like the political parties have all decided on the same TikTok strategy. Memes. An aggressive amount of memes. 

To meme, or not to meme? 

Over the last week, Labour have already spent over a million on advertising across Google and Meta, with the Conservatives spending around £350k. But TikTok is different - not only because it’s new territory - but also because it doesn’t allow paid advertising by politicians or political parties.

So they are relying entirely on organic content and pleasing the TikTok algorithm to ensure their content and messaging will be served far and wide. 

And they’re doing that through memes. A lot of memes. 

Labour have had a much higher output of content on TikTok compared to the opposition, with 20+ memes posted so far. And that’s with some of their memes being removed from the platform. 

While some users are loving the strategy, others are concerned about this approach. 

Vic Banham, CEO of Antler Social, took to LinkedIn to discuss the fact that she doesn’t think everyone should be praising the aggressive meme strategy that Labour have taken, stating:

 “I get it - if you want to target a younger audience, you talk in their language and create content that entertains them to win them over… But IMO, that's a strategy for a brand...not the government” 

But it’s not just Labour people are concerned about, it’s all three of the major parties. The TikTok comments are flooded with people complaining about it being unprofessional, finding it hard to trust the parties and calling for them to spend time talking about the issues that are actually concerning the nation. 

Is the strategy really that bad? 

The thing with social media is that it’s often an echo chamber. You’ll see one viral thought, opinion or comment then all of a sudden, hundreds of other people are parroting the exact same thing. 

It’s like when you see a marketing campaign on LinkedIn that people absolutely love, or completely loathe. You’ll then see that same campaign being talked about, with the exact same opinions and thoughts for months and even years later. 

So, while it’s not ideal that these political parties are spending more time in a meme war than they are talking about their policies - it’s worth remembering that we’re still in the early stages of campaigning, and it’s clear what they’re trying to do. 

Build brand awareness, and grab the attention of younger voters. 

And clearly, it’s working, just look at the SocialBlade statistics for the Conservatives and Labour. 


 Liberal democrats don’t have enough data yet. 

You might be thinking that social media content - and memes - aren’t enough to sway opinions or votes, but Ray Saddiq of The Social Diary doesn’t agree and urges people to “think back to when TV advertising was first used in US election campaigns in the 1950s.”

“Advertisers back then quickly realised how powerful it was in influencing voters. The same thing is happening now with social media.” He continues. 

And while there are many comments that are disapproving of the TikTok strategy implemented by the parties, there are just as many in support. 

What should the parties focus on in the future weeks? 

We are just over a week into campaigning, so there’s a long way to go yet, and TikTok is only a small part of the social strategy that’s being implemented. Whether you’re a lover or a hater of the aggressive meme strategy, it’s probably here to stay. However, the political parties should start pivoting their focus to educating and empowering people to vote. 

It’s worth noting that this isn’t an either-or situation. The memes don’t have to stop. They can still use humour in their content and inform voters on their manifesto. 

Now that the political parties have spoken to the masses through this brand awareness stage in their TikTok strategy, it’s time to start talking to individuals. If you’re creating content for everybody, you’re creating content for no one. 

PSA: The political parties really need to start creating social-first content that’s suitable for each platform, too, because why are we still trying to redirect users to click a link to a long article that is full of jargon that no one really understands unless they’re interested in politics and policies. 

What we think at Atlas SEO

“The UK parties' aggressive meme strategy shows a blatant lack of interest in actually informing the public in my opinion. A ploy got engagement with no real substance behind it. I would have to assume that no parties believe in their own policies going off their TikTok accounts, as they are marketing themselves on memes and statements. They're all doing everything to enable engagement but to what end when those watching and sharing probably have no idea about their policy proposals or basic election information. It is possible to be funny and engaging and also provide value to voters” - Monica Bondalici 

“I think it shows that Labour are not being complacent, despite the polls showing that they are likely to win. Instead, they're going out to target multiple demographics across various platforms.” - Sean McNulty 

“I do think it's exceptionally important to get young people interested in politics. The next generation will lead us forward and if they are uninformed they may make bad choices. While there is an element of 'cringe' to see political parties using meme culture to promote messages, if it works, it's a potentially huge benefit for everyone.” - Molly-Anna MaQuirl 

“Honestly, from a conceptual standpoint of "they're using social media", it's just good to see that the predominantly older set of the population that make up political parties are actually understanding that getting young people engaged in any way is a plus, rather than spending all their resources on the age groups that already want to vote, which is - arguably - where their resources are better spent if they're just going for an election win.” - Archie Williamson 


When is the next general election?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for a general election on 22nd May, due to take place on 4th July 2024.

Who can vote in general elections in the UK?

You must be registered to vote, and you can register up until 11.59pm on 18th June 2024. Alongside this: 

  • You need to be 18 or over on the day of the election 

  • Be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen 

  • Living at an address in the UK, or living abroad and registered as an overseas voter 

  • Not legally excluded from voting 

Do I need photo ID to vote? 

Yes, you’ll need a valid form of photo ID. Passports, driving licences, blue badges, older or disabled person’s bus passes and more are accepted. You can even use an out-of-date ID, as long as you look the same. 

If you don’t have any of these, you can apply for a voter authority certificate which is free, and the deadline to get one in time for the general election is 17:00 on 26th June 2024. 

But if you don’t have a valid form of ID after that deadline, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote which is available on polling day up until 17:00. 

Does my vote decide the next prime minister? 

In a general election, you vote to elect a local MP. The prime minister is appointed by the monarch which follows constitutional conventions, so the political party which has the most seats in the House of Commons will form the new government. 

If you’re not sure who’s running for MP in your area, you can find out via Who Can I Vote For

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