Engaging with voters, Tory style

Well yesterday wasn’t exactly a high point in British politics was it? Byers et al suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party and bringing politics into disrepute just as I thought it was beginning to turn a corner. I’ll be writing more on that later. Yesterday also gave us another Tory campaign triumph balls up.  

The Tories launched over last weekend a new website and Facebook group to carry on their theme of Trade Union links to the Labour party (founded by, er, the trade unions, but we’ll skip that for now). It’s a nice looking site. Nobody would blame you for being impressed with the site. It’s a step up on their usual rubbish. There was some nice integration between the website and facebook, and it encouraged supporter action of a sort. That’s probably where alarm bells should’ve started ringing really. When did CCHQ ever attempt to mobilise anybody other than their blogging attack dogs?  

It was Political Scrapbook who brilliantly produced the information that  the Tory website had been produced by US Republican strategists David All Group, and is hosted alongside anti-healthcare reform and anti-homosexuality sites, among others. Sam Coates, CCHQ’s internet campaign head, proudly exclaims in his blogpost  introducing the campaign that the website was  

Built in just a few days  

Sounds impressive doesn’t it? I’ve built websites before and it can be tricky. Takes time to get a nice slick design and interface. And it does look slick:  

cash-gordon.com, the Conservative's campaign site attacking Labour's links with Unite
Tory Cash Gordon website - note the tweet in the bottom right

But then you look at other sites hosted on the same server and see this one protesting against a US energy tax aimed at reducing carbon emissions:  

Right-wing Heritage Foundation's campaignsite against healthcare reform
US Heritage Foundation website

Once you’ve seen the two, you start to wonder just why the hell it took Sam Coates and his staff a few days to get their site up and running. “It’s obvious,” I hear you shout. “The few days would be to set up security and moderating to avoid any hacking.”  

Well, you’d think so wouldn’t you? Turns out it was more likely spent playing mahjong on a laptop, or maybe Farmville as they’re such big Facebook fans at CCHQ. Either way, it wasn’t security and moderating they were setting up. As part of the design of their website, they decided to have live feed of all tweets with the #cashgordon hash tag.  Then Coates bragged about how he was  

Sitting back and marvelling at #CashGordon – we had an open hash tag policy, and have not changed that today, for a reason!  

Of course, once people realised that whatever they wrote with that hash tag appeared on the tory website, they unleashed much mischief. First it was insults, then it was automatic redirects to websites, then it was a rickroll, lemonparty, and goatse in quick succession. If you don’t know what those things are, you’ve lived a good and pure life thus far. Well done to you. Now go look them up on the urban dictionary and laugh a lot. Goatse was the final straw, and the site was taken down “for maintenance” at that point.    

That should be the end of this sad tale. Coates should have been annoyed, learned his lesson, and moved on. But there’s a twist to this tale. After being made a laughing stock of for a day by people who know a lot more about the internet than CCHQ, a call was made to one of said people. In this case a web developer who had inserted javascript to redirect people to his own website. That call was to threaten legal action against the developer and purported to be from the Conservative party. This person was initially thought to be called Laura Cooper and Sam Coates denied knowing anyone of that name as well as denying the call had been made from CCHQ. He had no clue at all as to who it could possibly be. The caller was later identified as one Lua Cooper, the girlfriend of Sam Coates, and star of CCHQ’s “how to telephone canvass” video. CCHQ were quick to deny that she was acting in any official capacity, claiming she was just angry about the hijacking of the site. They couldn’t have hung her out any quicker if she was wet washing on a warm day. Anyway, Coates set out to engage voters, which is a very sensible strategy. And he can probably claim some success. He certainly engaged thousands of voters. It’s just that they’re all voting Labour.  

Cash-gordon.com has been hacked
Typical comment from the twitter feed


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  1. Good account of the Tories’ social media fail, followed by Lua Cooper’s spectacular netiquette fail. Phoning up somebody’s boss and threatening legal action, when all they did was put a bit of cheeky code in a tweet (and it was in no way their fault the cash-gordon twitter feed was wide open), is a gross abuse of the implicit code of conduct we all (usually) use to rub by online everyday. Otherwise social media would be unusable. What if every time I came to blows with someone online, I tracked them down, rang their boss, pretending to be from the Labour party, and threatened to sue them? In effect, Lua Cooper stalked and harassed @jimmysparkle because he had the temerity to point out the staggering incompetence of Sam Coates, her boyfriend. Coates should be sacked and the Tories should ensure Cooper never makes another training video, or otherwise represents them, ever again.

    I wonder, was she paid to present that phone video? Have Sam’n Lua been on a nice little earner there?

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