A funny old election

Thursday 29 April 2010, 16:01

Matthew Eltringham Matthew Eltringham is editor of the BBC College of Journalism website. Twitter: @mattsays

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Hung Parliament Party video.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, George Osborne described the Conservative Party's spoof video on the dangers of a hung parliament (above) as "in the best tradition of these things, done with a bit of humour".

Well, George, I think we'll be the judge of that. But the shadow chancellor does raise an interesting point about just how much of a laugh this campaign has raised.

It's certainly taken no time at all for the (post-watershed, mind) Malcolm Tucker version of Gordon Brown's meeting with Gillian Duffy to emerge.

Aside from the mainstream satirical shows like Have I Got News For You and Radio 4's The Vote Now Show, many comedians have been offering their 140-character insights into the election. Chris Addison, 'comedy satwitterist' Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and Simon Pegg have all joined the party on Twitter.

In fact, right from off, it was the less-than-serious subject of suitable song titles for the election campaign that saw the highest levels of interest on Twitter. On the day the election was called, #electionpop out-trended the straightforward #ukelection. 

Humour - in its broadest sense - has been a key component of the Twitter election experience. The ironic #nickcleggsfault - where Tweeters blamed the Lib Dem for almost every misfortune, personal or otherwise, that they could think of - was not only frequently funny but coloured the response to the attack on Nick Clegg in some parts of the media. It even inspired a song.

Even the tone of the Twitter chat on #leadersdebate was not so much a serious-minded forensic analysis of party policy; more a light-hearted but informed commentary on everything from the relative good looks of the audience to bon mots about what the individuals were saying.

What else has appeared on YouTube? Has the home of Obama Girl found an equivalent this side of the Atlantic? 

Well, there have been some uniquely British attempts at video humour, ranging from the Cameron Girls, to a rather less flattering and more robust (consider yourself warned about the language) version of Pulp's Common People, and ending up with the, um, worthy attempt to drum up interest in and support for the democratic process courtesy of the Bucks Fizz song Making Your Mind up. They've all done modestly well - and there is an election song contest on YouTube - but they all remain some way short of the 17 million hits for the original Obama Girl video.

That's not to say there haven't been some genuine laugh-out-loud moments on social media.

The parodies of the pre-election Conservative poster campaign have continued and have developed into a 'quote generator'.

David Cameron's notes for the second leader's debate were 'apparently left in the back of a car'. And now @craighill83 tells us Gordon brown did the same.

There's also been a fair few games created - from the Slapometer to a boxing match between the contenders for Downing Street.

So, while social media might not have been treating the politicians with the respect they might have preferred, the humour has clearly understood and engaged with the politics.

Matthew Eltringham Tweets as mattsays

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