[First published in the News Letter on Friday April 16.]
This week I’m taking a look at the TUV and how well their candidates have been exploiting the internet.
Up until recently, the TUV’s presence on social media had been spearheaded mainly by Party Leader Jim Allister and East Belfast candidate David Vance. Jim is extremely active on twitter, and David’s a well-known blogger. But now we can add a third name to that list… East Londonderry candidate Willie Ross.
For this week Willie announced the launch of a brand spanking new campaign website and twitterfeed.
In his press release Willie said: ‘Some people mistakenly believe that those of us from an older generation have difficulty when it comes to modern technology. Nothing could be further from the truth.’
So it seems. UCUNF rival Lesley Macaulay had previously attacked him for being so ‘last century’. How wrong you are Lesley! Willie now has ‘tweet-cred’ and is out there meeting ‘tweeple’… which is more than can be said for Lesley herself. Inexplicably, her own twitter page doesn’t exist anymore. (Whatever happened Lesley?)*
So @williamrosstuv took to his micro-blog with the following: ‘Get rid of the dodgy dealer politicians. Put integrity, honesty and loyalty back into politics in East Londonderry- Vote for Willie Ross!’
Just so. But why not also put some tactical voting back into politics as well?
According to @JimAllister: ‘Another good day canvassing. Very encouraging response in Ballymena. Clear many Ulster Unionists will be voting wisely and tactically.’
I wonder what poor old Irwin Armstrong of UCUNF has to say about that?
Elsewhere, I see that Jim Allister has failed in his attempt to prevent Ian Paisley Jnr from using a campaign leaflet. Even as Jim’s statement went up on twitter reacting to the judgment, @DavidCather was posting a link to the disputed leaflet. Could the effect of the legal action be to raise profile of the leaflet’s content? We’ll see. I suspect there may be more to run in this story.
But on to the TUV’s biggest asset in terms of social media – David Vance, who’s the blogging equivalent of a one-man gang. The East Belfast candidate has been running A Tangled Web for some considerable time and has built this up into one of the biggest local sites.
On the blog, David says everything’s to play for in East Belfast. After an evening’s canvass he wrote: ‘…the most significant issue is disgust at the DUP. This IS the Robinson heartland, he (and she) was born and bred in this area, but people have been scandalised by all that has gone on in the past six months and it is breath-taking to hear the visceral loathing of the First Minister.’
David and his team plan to canvass their message to 25,000 in East Belfast homes between now and May 6th. We’ll see if the feedback he’s getting translates into support in the polling booths.
Beyond that it’s difficult to find any information about TUV candidates. For example, the TUV press release announcing Sammy Morrison’s candidacy in East Antrim offers 14 social tools to bookmark or share the page, but there’s no link to find out more about Sammy and his personal vision etc.
In truth, there is very little to be found on the TUV outside of Ross, Allister and Vance. No doubt resources will have something to do with this, but self-publishing through social media is the one method whereby smaller (but more nimble) parties can compete on an equal footing with incumbents. So I expected a greater online presence.
Nevertheless, I hear TUV-ish blogger Turgon is soon to return to the blogosphere after a short break. I’m sure he’ll add some considerable volume and weight to election analysis going up at sites like Slugger O’Toole and Open Unionism. The TUV needs him.
*Lesley did delete her twitter page… but she created another one. Check out Lesley’s tweets @lesley4change.