Dismiss #Milifandom at your peril

Funny? Yes. But important too

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Everyone loves an underdog. Remember Eric Moussambani, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics who had the crowd roaring as he swum his way to a world record for the slowest ever 100m recorded at an international games? He wasn’t a winner in the traditional sense, but – tens of thousands of global column inches later – he had his own kind of victory.

You might argue that 2015’s equivalent is #Milifandom, the hashtag (started by a 17-year-old Labour supporter called Abby) that’s overtaking Twitter and, subsequently, much of the media right now and that has sent the Labour leader’s popularity soaring, if not in the voting polls where he remains close but not quite victorious over David Cameron, but with swathes of teenagers (a gift for the beleaguered media as election fatigue sets in).

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It started with memes of Ed crowned with flowers – a response, said Abby to ‘the distorted media portrayal’ of him (for that, read constant ridiculing in large sections of the national press for appearing to bear a resemblance to Wallace of cartoon Wallace and Gromit, for his voice, his gaffes, and so it goes on) - and spiralled into photoshopped images of him as various A-list ‘hunks’ including James Bond, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger and Harry Styles to name a few.

It’s funny. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Ed has the best &quot;bitch, please&quot; face <a href="http://t.co/hrttK4KBhH">pic.twitter.com/hrttK4KBhH</a></p>&mdash; abby (@twcuddleston) <a href="https://twitter.com/twcuddleston/status/589908776729313280">April 19, 2015</a></blockquote>
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And it’s a little bit silly. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>&quot;Lynton, about this <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/milifandom?src=hash">#milifandom</a> thing? Make them love me. MAKE THEM LOVE ME.&quot; <a href="http://t.co/Clz8WomFaa">pic.twitter.com/Clz8WomFaa</a></p>&mdash; whydidhessfly (@whydidhessfly) <a href="https://twitter.com/whydidhessfly/status/590772400867901440">April 22, 2015</a></blockquote>

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But we should also take the #Milifans seriously. The crowns of flowers around Ed’s head in the pictures are as ludicrous as the caricatures of him as Wallace – but their message is the opposite. 

That we’ve all got Ed wrong. It’s been so easy to write him off because of the fact his physical attributes aren’t straight-down-the-line ‘traditional’. Isn’t it terrible though that we are still in a place where if you’re bald (William Hague) or your voice sounds a bit nasal, your teeth are big or the fact that, by your own admission, you were a bit of a geek and not exactly confident in the early days when it came to romance (all Ed), you’re not taken seriously as a leader?

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The fact that the whole election has been changed by a young person is amazing and proves that social media is not a waste</p>&mdash; Georgina (@phandomhopeful) <a href="https://twitter.com/phandomhopeful/status/590999676683472896">April 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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But maybe #Milifandom, while superficial, is a way for teenagers and young voters to say, with humour, that they do find Miliband – and, crucially, his politics - attractive. 

That while for years he’s been ridiculed, there are people out there who do like him – love him, fervently, bizarrely passionately, even. Abby (@twcuddleston), who kicked it all off is a passionate Labour supporter and activist, and give her a follow on twitter to see just how serious she is.

These memes a quick, easy and yes, silly way to show support. But modern day Presidencies (Obama) have been won on social media, so why not the UK general election?

Dismiss #Milifandom at your peril.

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