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What #WebackEd means

Tens of thousands of people pouring out onto that there Twitter showing support for Ed Miliband? What has the world come to? Stranger things have happened, just not that often.

And so it came to pass that for the best part of 24 hours, #webackEd trended on Twitter. It still is at the time of writing. Starting before last night’s round of hyped-up difficulties by @CharlieWoof81 and @jon_swindon, as hashtags go it can be described as an unqualified success. It even managed to resist blandishments and hijackings by trolls and the like.
Of course, trending topics are here today, gone in 30 seconds time. They often mean very little. They (mostly) denote an activity, like, ugh, watching Question Time or Strictly; are questions tweeted in to a celebrity Q&A; or just pick up phrases lots of people are throwing into their tweets. Like ‘Happy Christmas’. But not all trends are equal. Tweeters frequently use them to make a point, as per the case here. Tweets of this type are qualitatively different: they reflect a movement of opinion among a large group of people with a computer or mobile device to hand. Can anything then be gleaned from the many tens of thousands of tweets backing Ed Miliband?

Ask any marketing company, they will tell you it is incredibly difficult to get something going viral on Twitter. This is not the brain child of a staffer down One Brewer’s Green. It came from real Labour Party supporters and has been picked up by Labour Party supporters.

The unity among Labour members of all wings of the party is real enough. There might be grumbles from time to time, but all are united in wanting the party to win next year. They realise the stakes are that high. The same cannot be said of the Tories. Or, it would seem, a couple to a handful of whingers in the PLP. And the members are pissed off. If they can be disciplined and fall in behind the hard work of shifting Dave and co from office, then why can’t those who supposedly represent them in Parliament? So there’s anger.

There’s also an element of grievance, and from that grievance comes forth a new phenomenon: Labour identity politics. In reality, it’s nothing novel. People have been talking about and describing themselves as ‘tribal Labour’ for donkey’s years. What is new here is the first collective manifestation of Labour identity politics appropriate to Twitter. The ceaseless drip-drip of tittle-tattle and undermining of Ed Miliband, the comparatively easy ride the Tories get despite insurmountable divisions, the frustration with scabbing Labour MPs, and, crucially, evidence of thousands of like-minded others.

Just as the self-described 45’ers banded together in the wake of Scotland saying no, here we have Labour supporters showing a united front on social media as their party comes under sustained attack by its enemies. If that spurs comrades into real world activity and helps recruit a few sympathetic, wavering lefties, that’s all to the good. It also shows to the “normal” people on Twitter that contrary to what the rest of the media are saying, there is backing for Ed.

Lastly, there is every chance the constant personal attacks on Ed Miliband could come undone. As a general rule, the British electorate are fair minded. Sections of it might swallow scapegoating of powerless minorities, but generally they do not like what can be interpreted as bullying. When the press gang up on a politician, the deep seated sense of fair play tends to kick in. It’s something we saw during the 2010 general election, until Gordon Brown showed himself up as a cynic in light of Gillian Duffy fiasco. And it will happen again.

Weird Ed, nerdy Ed, can’t-eat-a-bacon-sandwich Ed will work against the peddlers and crankers when policy comes to the fore. When in the leaders’ debates it’s Ed Miliband arguing for the abolition of the bedroom tax, the curbing of zero hours contracts, of boosting the minimum wage, guaranteeing an energy price freeze, and for more taxes on the rich it all becomes clear why the Tories and their running dogs will stoop to any level to ruin him.


  1. peter willsman says:

    Due to a combination of favourable circumstances Labour was on course to be at least the largest party after the General Election.We just needed to play a straight bat and give our voters hope.The only thing that could derail this scenario was disloyalty by dickhead MPs aided by the Tory Press.As could be predicted the wreckers are now in full cry!!
    Alan Johnson made it plain on the radio that he was not up to the job of PM.He was also out of his depth as Shadow Chancellor.The Tory Press would soon reduce AJ to a liability.
    The NEC,the Unions, Party members and the PLP need to get a grip on the wreckers before they do any more damage.

    1. John Reid says:

      In all fairness,not being a decent Shadow chancellor doesn’t mean one couldn’t be A good PM, Wilsons shadow budget in 1959′ saw Labour lose due to not be able to explain, where the money would come from, Callaghan ,saw devaluation, I don’t think wilson knew w great deal about the economy, same as Blair,

      I think the Ed situation, will depend on labours vote at the Rochester by election, if it’s less than 10% he’s in trouble,

  2. Robert says:

    The real issue is not Miliband although I still think he is a problem for party.

    The real issue is of course what is the labour party today,where it doing and what is it’s ideology.

    New labour is not dead of course it’s not most of the front bench are either Progress or New labour and that is the problem.

    The so called wreckers may well be those who want to see Blair’s lot back in power.

    I do not think the people of this country are that sure of Miliband yet, and they are not yet sure of where and what the labour party stand for, after all for three terms the labour party tried to take over from the Tories.

    Anyway being disabled so all these political parties are against me and people like me.

  3. swatantra says:

    ‘May avoids arrest’ might have been more accurate and eyecatching.
    It may have been a procedual thing but they messed it upI remember Hollande promised a lot, but delivered b****r all, so its its not all about the promises you make, its really about what you can deliver, and if the economy doesn’t improve, those promises won’t be worth a hill of beans.

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