Labour have released details about their leadership elections. The results are expected to be released on the 18th of November. So there are 6 weeks of the election to run.There are two elements about the process that I think are going to be visible on social media.
The first part concerns the candidates. Labour’s press release specifically mentions a code of conduct for candidates. But this isn’t going to be finalised until after the nominations close. We have already seen a number of interesting social media elements of the debate around the leadership. Former Labour candidate James Dann wrote a rather critical open letter to David Cunliffe on Public Address. We have also seen Karen Price take to Twitter. If the rules around the actions of the candidates and their campaigns are not laid out until after the nominations close can we expect to see candidates and their supporters doing things on social media to try and gain an advantage that may not fall within the rules that are finally laid out? Labour appear to have issues around being able to enforce their own internal discipline. With a clean slate of no rules, and a whip who seems unable to enforce any form of discipline at the moment, how do Labour expect the various camps to act? I expect, until the rules are laid down, that we will see each of the camps using their MPs and candidates to start pushing negative messages about the other side on social media. Because this election is all internal to the party, and the number of people actually voting is pretty small, I don’t think Social media is an effective way to approach the issue of campaigning for votes. All I can foresee is the MPs and activists on each side using social media as a way to attack those who don’t agree with them. This is highly likely to get nasty, and will no doubt backfire on at least on side.
The second part concerns the fact that Labour have attempted to establish some guidelines for their members during the leadership election. Firstly I have to comment on the fact that so far the one group of people they have rules trying to guide the actions of is the one group they really have no way to enforce the rules against. No party really has that much leverage over the actions of its general members. If they hold an elected position there is an expectation that they will at least act in the party’s best interest, and if they don’t they can either not be reelection, or removed from their position. But trying to set rules of general party members is never going to succeed.
The email with the “expectations” was sent out sometime on Thursday, by 6pm on Thursday there were copies of it floating around online. The section that I have seen is:
Unsurprisingly there has been a reaction. Even members of the Young Labour Executive have been implying that they will find certain sections of these expectations difficult to follow.
At least one member has already asked questions of the Labour party leadership about how they are going to be able to enforce these rules:
Labour have no rules, at the moment, for the one group of people, candidates and MPs that they could actually enforce them on. Yet they have place “expectations” on party members, who they have no way to enforce them against. This isn’t just because they have no way to enforce rules against members. It is also because of the fact that there are more members than they will be able to keep an eye on. It isn’t even a fact of social media. In the past it would have been neigh on impossible for the party to start aware of all the comments being made. In fact in someways social media may be making it easier to try and enforce these rules, as well as making it more tempting to create them. But there is no way the party can do anything about any transgressions.
Labour have created a situation where both groups are, in essence, being encouraged to misbehave, the MPs have no rules at this stage, yet they have a system designed to enforce them. While at the same time the membership have “expectations” but no system to enforce these. Plus they will be questioning why the party thinks it has the right to try and bring these “expectations”.
Social media is an easy place to vent. It is also a place where various factions will come into contact with each other. It will be fun to watch, but I don’t think it will do the Labour party and its brand any long term good.