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.