As MPs decided whether or not to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and the hastened timetable to approve it, the Tory party showed off a new campaigning tactic that was as eye-watering as it was bold.
In the hours leading up to Tuesday night’s key votes on the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, the @Conservatives Twitter account pushed out a series of messages in bright and garish colours, urging parliamentarians to support it.
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) October 22, 2019
No more D̶i̶t̶h̶e̶r̶.No more D̶e̶l̶a̶y̶.
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) October 21, 2019
One, however, particularly captured the attention – featuring the words “MPs must come together and get Brexit done” in what appeared to be Microsoft’s much-maligned Comic Sans font.
Within less than an hour, Comic Sans was the top UK trend on Twitter, as users lined up to poke fun.
“Comic sans for a comic Government,” read one reply.
“Help. I am a design intern being held against my will,” another jokes.
But while many users mocked the tactic, others viewed it as a deliberate ploy to gain attention.
Guardian technology editor Alex Hern tweeted: “18 minutes ago the Tories tweeted a slogan written in comic sans. I’ve seen it quote-tweeted four times on my timeline already. Good job everyone.”
18 minutes ago the Tories tweeted a slogan written in comic sans. I've seen it quote tweeted four times on my timeline already. Good job everyone
— untitled hern account (@alexhern) October 22, 2019
“That’s weaponised Comic Sans,” added fellow journalist Mic Wright.
The Tories are understood to have employed New Zealand creative agency Topham Guerin to execute their new social media strategy since Mr Johnson became PM.
The group, which helped Australia’s Liberal party to a shock election victory this year, is known for using memes and pop culture references to gain traction with audiences on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
One example of the new strategy could be seen in a heavily-criticised campaign depicting Jeremy Corbyn as a chicken.
This James is silly playground behaviour.We are in the middle of a national crisis and this is our response.🤦🏽♀️How can grown men reduce themselves to this level of silliness. What has become of this great Party of ours😢 https://t.co/89aStqWjbq
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) September 6, 2019
While party chairman James Cleverly welcomed the ad, one of his predecessors, Baroness Sayeedi Warsi described it as “silly playground behaviour”.
Despite the uproar over the use of Comic Sans, pollsters YouGov claimed 52% of Brits actually like the font.
The irony of that was not lost on pro-Brexit commentator Tom Harwood, who tweeted: “The anti-comic sans brigade is one 48% I can confirm I am a part of.”
the anti-comic sans brigade is one 48% I can confirm I am a part of.
— Tom Harwood QC (@tomhfh) October 22, 2019