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Five things I learned from UK prime minister candidates’ domain names

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2022, 20:58:27 (UTC), Gossip

Boris Johnson announced he is to resign as UK prime minister after a series of scandals last week, and as of this evening 11 of his former friends have announced their plans to replace him as leader of the Conservative party and therefore UK PM.

I’ll spare you the details of Johnson’s downfall and the process used to find his successor, but domain names became part of the story over the weekend when a so-called “Dirty Dossier” began circulating among Tory MPs, denouncing candidate Rishi Sunak.

Among the allegations was that Sunak, whose resignation as chancellor last week eventually led to the Johnson’s own resignation, had been plotting Johnson’s demise and his own rise to power since last December, using Whois records for his campaign site as a smoking gun.

I thought I’d take a look at all 11 candidates’ registrations to see what else we could learn.

1. Sunak wasn’t the only “plotter”

Sunak came under scrutiny over the weekend when it emerged that the domain name readyforrishi.com has been registered since December 23 last year, a few weeks into the Partygate scandal, when the foundations of Johnson’s premiership began to weaken.

This, it was claimed in the Dirty Dossier, showed that Sunak had been plotting his boss’s downfall for six months.

His team have subsequently claimed that the name wasn’t necessarily registered by them, and his campaign is currently using the similar domain ready4rishi.com, which was registered July 7, the day Johnson announced his resignation.

The December domain forwards to Sunak’s official campaign site, suggesting its registrant is at the least a supporter.

We can’t tell for sure because all Whois records are redacted due to GDPR, which is still in effect in the UK despite Brexit.

But Sunak wasn’t the only prescient registrant in the clown car. Liz Truss’s campaign site is at lizforleader.co.uk, which was registered June 8, a month before there was a leadership job opening available, Whois records show.

Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat and Sajid Javid have names registered last week. Penny Mordaunt’s pm4pm.com was registered in 2019, but that’s because she also stood for Tory leader in 2019, ultimately losing to Johnson.

2. Not much patriotism on display

Of the 11 candidates, only five are campaigning using .uk addresses.

Kemi Badenoch uses a .org.uk. Suella Braverman uses a .co.uk. While Jeremy Hunt usually uses a .org, he’s using a .co.uk for his campaign. Same for Truss. Javid is using a thoroughly modern .uk, eschewing the third level, at teamsaj.uk.

All the rest use a .com for their sites.

3. Truss and Hunt didn’t register their matching .uk

While Javid appears to have registered the .co.uk matching his .uk, Truss and Hunt have not registered their matching second-level domains, which is just asking for trouble from pranksters and opponents.

That said, while it’s been six or seven years since .uk domains became available from Nominet, they haven’t really caught on in terms of adoption or popular mind-share. It would be a much greater crime to register a 2LD without the matching 3LD than vice versa.

4. Two candidates own their surnames

While all of the candidates own their full names in their chosen TLDs, only Grant Shapps and Nadhim Zahawi own their .com surnames.

Whois records and Archive.org show that Shapps has owned Shapps.com since 2000, years before he won his first parliamentary seat. He has a history of being involved in questionable online get-rich-quick schemes and used to follow me on Twitter, so he’s probably quite domain-savvy.

Zahawi, who’s been Chancellor of the Exchequer since Sunak quit last week, has owned zahawi.com since he first ran for parliament in 2009.

5. Here’s what domains everyone else is using

According to Google and the Twitter accounts of the candidates, these are the URLs used by each candidate for their regular official sites and, if they have one, their premiership campaign sites.

Note that in most cases their regular sites are managed by a company called Bluetree, which specializes in running boilerplate web sites for Tories, so the choice of domain may not necessarily be the choice of the MP in question.

Kemi Badenochkemibadenoch.org.ukfacebook.com/kemibadenoch
Suella Bravermansuellabraverman.co.uk
Rehman Chishtirehmanchishti.com
Jeremy Huntjeremyhunt.orgjeremyhunt2022.co.uk
Sajid Javidsajidjavid.comteamsaj.uk
Penny Mordauntpennymordaunt.compm4pm.com
Grant Shappsshapps.com
Rishi Sunakrishisunak.comready4rishi.com
Liz Trusselizabethtruss.comlizforleader.co.uk
Tom Tugendhattomtugendhat.orgtimefortugendhat.com
Nadhim Zahawizahawi.com

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Comments (3)

  1. Dan says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that elected politicians don’t use .uk by default.

    You’re standing to be PM of the country and you don’t use its own ccTLD?

    These will be the first people to try and make capital off the back of ‘buy British’ and other flag waving slogans to get them in…

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