The TikTok-ification of politics has been an unwelcome distraction, pulling focus from the critical issues facing our nation. Now, it’s time to cut through the noise and get down to the real work.Chiara Delpiano Cordeiro for Varsity

In an era where attention spans are measured in seconds and political discourse is distilled into bite-sized snippets, the 2024 general election found an unlikely stage: TikTok. This video-sharing platform, once the domain of dance challenges and lip-sync performances, became a battleground for political parties vying to capture the hearts, minds, and most importantly, the votes of an increasingly digitally-native electorate.

This general election proved that lengthy stump speeches and carefully crafted press releases are things of the past. In their place, we found a cacophony of memes, soundbites, and viral challenges, all designed to cut through the noise of the digital landscape and resonate with voters more likely to scroll than to read a manifesto.

“What’s truly alarming is the lack of accountability in this new digital frontier”

Nigel Farage’s emergence as TikTok’s unlikely political sensation was both remarkable and deeply concerning. The 60-year-old Reform UK leader, known for his divisive Brexit rhetoric, hijacked the platform with a savvy cynicism that belies his public persona. His five-second lip-sync to Eminem’s “guess who’s back?” racked up a staggering eight million views, dwarfing the reach of mainstream political content. This digital coup, engineered by a shrewd social media team, wasn’t just about reimagining political outreach—it was a Trojan horse for extreme ideologies. Farage’s TikTok triumph provided a direct line to impressionable viewers, bypassing traditional media scrutiny. The platform’s algorithm amplified his message, regardless of its content or veracity.

What’s truly alarming is the lack of accountability in this new digital frontier. Farage and other right-wing figures exploited TikTok’s format to broadcast transphobic and xenophobic rhetoric without consequence. Their inflammatory views, once confined to the fringes, reached millions unchallenged, normalised through the guise of trendy, bite-sized content.

This unchecked platforming of controversial figures both during the general election and moving forward represents a clear and present danger to informed democratic discourse. It underscores the urgent need for digital literacy and robust content moderation to ensure that viral appeal doesn’t trump social responsibility. The TikTokification of politics may be innovative, but its potential to amplify harmful ideologies unchecked is a threat we can’t afford to ignore.

“The true cost of this digital pandering [is…] a smokescreen of manufactured engagement that obscures the failures of our political class”

The major parties have not been idle in this digital arms race. Labour, in particular, has demonstrated a keen understanding of internet culture, skillfully repurposing existing memes to deliver political messages. Their 11-second takedown of Rishi Sunak’s national service policy, featuring archive footage of Cilla Black, exemplified this approach. By tapping into nostalgia and humour, Labour managed to critique Tory government policy in a format that was both accessible and shareable. The Conservatives, while lagging in follower count, made efforts to adapt to the platform’s unique language. Rishi Sunak’s earnest 50-second promotion of his national service policy garnered millions of views, though it was outperformed by Labour’s satirical response. This digital tug-of-war has highlighted the challenges traditional political messaging faces today in an environment that prizes brevity and entertainment over substance.

The true cost of this digital pandering goes far beyond lost credibility. It’s creating a smokescreen of manufactured engagement that obscures the dire state of our nation and the failures of our political class. While politicians dance and lip-sync for likes, they conveniently sidestep accountability for their actions—or inactions.

Take, for instance, the deafening silence throughout their campaigns from both major parties on the Palestine issue. Or consider the xenophobic rhetoric that seeped into mainstream political discourse, sugar-coated in shareable TikTok formats. These are not mere policy disagreements; they are fundamental moral failings that are being glossed over in the name of digital relevance.


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The grim reality is that while we were distracted by political TikTok antics, real issues have been festering unaddressed. Housing crises, healthcare system collapses, economic inequalities—these aren’t problems that can be solved with a clever meme or a trending dance. By prioritising viral content over substantive debate, we’re haven’t just been dumbing down politics; we’ve been actively undermining the very foundations of our democratic process.

The TikTok-ification of politics has been an unwelcome distraction, pulling focus from the critical issues facing our nation. Now, with a new government under Starmer’s leadership, it’s time to cut through the noise and get down to the real work. The pressing challenges of our housing crisis, struggling healthcare system, and widening economic inequalities demand more than viral soundbites. It’s time to see what Starmer’s administration will do to address these long-neglected issues that have been glossed over in the social media circus.