Sunday 9 November 2014

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.


EightFolkPath said...

The problem re. the last paragraph is that voters don't vote too much on policy - they vote on a narrative, an idea. Labour lacks that. It's systemic in an age when social democratic parties across Europe have been entirely compromised by neoliberalism and therefore don't have a clue how to respond to traditional parties of the right.

Phil said...

Indeed: I said it here.

Gary Elsby said...

I believe the last paragraph to be flawed to that of the Conservatives.
The idea that Ed storms it in Leader's debates is the long shot that Labour foot-soldiers are hinging on.
Flawed but not if there is more in the bag.
I'm not seeing too much on pensioners or 'the workers' of whom make up almost everyone other than immigrants and under-graduates!
Boosting the minimum wage is a back-door way of elevating wages overall but is clumsy and long winded. Zero hours contracts is a minority sport with an outlook on the mass conscience.
Your last paragraph is weak if it is representative of the big idea.

The Tories are giving us our pensions, EU referendum and high 'free tax' and their line appears to be of a Grande style.
My belief is that more is to come from their locker.

asquith said...

I happened to stumble across the Heil on Sunday. THREE PAGES of utterly fabricated coverage on MiliE, including dredging up a load of has-beens and never-weres, and what seems to be an entirely made up quote by Hunt, the only person of any relevance quoted, but then he wasn't actually quoted given that he probably didn't say what he allegedly said.

As I have said I won't be voting for Labour- and nothing I've seen of Ruth Smeeth has convinced me otherwise- but whatever you've done to scare them, you've done it good and proper.

I find Miliband's ideas a mixture of the unfeasble and the undesirable- I think, for instance, that his energy policy will end in tears- but I've always rated his abilities more highly and I think we are likely to get him, even if we don't want him.*

In spite of the claims, I don't think anyone of any seriousness expects a change. Neither Umunnah or Johnson has shown any signs of actually wanting the job or trying to get it or anything. This is all just an attempt by certain media types to weaken Miliband, who reigns supreme as far as I can see, and it can only be because they fear him.

*This belief, although it basically stands, has waned somewhat given recent doings in Scotland. My attempts to warn that Yessers were still a force to be rekoned with and shouldn't be ignored fell on deaf ears. I'll find occasion, I'm sure, to bore you with details of the two elections in 1910 but suffice to say the SNP replacing Labour is a threat no one seems to have prepared for and they should have listened to me. I still think he can come out ahead but Shameron, followed closely by Cleggover and MiliE, has caused grief here.

Vinyl Miner said...

Ed being reported in a little more positive way here.