Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

British techies make game to reach young voters

  • The game has reached hundreds of thousands of voters (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Imagine former neoliberal British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s ghost hunting down Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Imagine current conservative prime minister Theresa May dropping champagne bottles on Corbyn, while the bearded politician shakes money out of bankers.

Such are the dangers lurking around the corner for the Labour leader in a game called Corbyn Run, which has been a hit in recent weeks.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ed Saperia (l), founder of Newspeak House, and Josh Balfour (r), one of the developers of Corbyn Run (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

“It is a tongue-in-cheek game with a positive message,” said Josh Balfour, age 23. He is one of the developers of the game, and a Labour supporter.

Financial resources for the game, available on app and a website, came through crowdfunding and union contributions.

The inspiration came from a game designed for then French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, “Fiscal Kombat”, in which the leftist politician also relieves bankers of their wealth.

Corbyn Run is more dynamic and through “pledges” made when a certain score is reached, it puts out simplified messages from the Labour manifesto. More and more people follow Corbyn during the game, building a movement.

“I grew up with a Conservative background, where it is us versus them. We knew Conservatives would do 1, 2 and 3, and that Labour will do ‘bad’ things. These pledges help to get Labour’s points across,” Balfour said, adding that the game targets 18 to 34-year-olds.

Balfour hopes the game has contributed to Corbyn’s surge in polls in recent weeks.

The game has received around one million impressions, meaning a million people have seen or played it, and around 100,000 people have downloaded the app.

The Labour party, which has not been involved in the development of the game, congratulated the makers.

Powerful tools

Corbyn Run was born in London’s Newspeak House, a community of "political technologists”, where Josh Balfour is a fellow.

A 32-year-old, Ed Saperia, founded the house six years ago, and named it after the language of George Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state in 1984 two years ago as a constant reminder.

“It means you can’t forget what you’re trying to avoid,” Saperia told EUobserver in the East London building.

Saperia wants to make democracy work better, get people involved in a public conversation, build networks of people - whether in media, unions, civil service - who want to make a difference.

“The entire political ecosystem is really broken,” he told EUobserver. Saperia learned that lesson when he was asked by the Green party in 2014 to help their membership surge digitally.

Saperia is now building a community and also wants to build a college. Newspeak House now has 7 fellows who also live in the building, and 145 paying members.

“Elections are not really what we focus on,” he admits, although the 2017 general elections have highlighted some of the key issues that Newspeak House wants to tackle.

“Politics shouldn’t be about charismatic leaders, but community based organisations, which come together to express political power,” he said.

Saperia is fascinated by how to create a conversation between 100,000 people in a meaningful way, and how institutions could talk to each other more efficiently. He cites Wikipedia as a good example, where a community of people created something useful.

He also highlights the responsibility of giants like Facebook and Google, who “sit on the side”. “If it [Facebook] wanted to keep us in the EU, it could have,” he said.

Besides Corbyn Run, civic technologists at Newspeak House built other websites to advise citizens, such as ge2017.com, which helps voters to find their party matches. It also helps people to swap their votes in constituencies where it could make a difference, and educates about tactical voting in the UK’s first-past-the-post system.

Another program, a browser extension called Whotargets.me, lets users know about which political parties tailor-make Facebook ads to target them.

“We are making powerful tools,” Saperia said.

Feature

EU to analyse role of Facebook and Google

The EU will start an assessment into the role of online platforms. But the increased influence of internet companies has already been discussed by 'internet critics' for several years.

May promises hard Brexit in Tory manifesto

In her party's platform ahead of the 8 June elections, the British prime minister has asked voters to let her negotiate Brexit without guaranteeing a final deal.

May's Tories fail to secure majority

[Updated] British elections produce a hung parliament, with Conservatives failing to secure majority, while still being the largest party in the House of Commons.

UK election under way, as voters eye Brexit

Almost 50 million voters expected at UK polls, with May hoping to reinforce her position as prime minister with a sizeable majority ahead of Brexit talks.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us