Tuesday 12 December 2017

Miliband 'blushing' at fans' tweets

Labour party leader Ed Miliband has drawn an army of fans on social media
Labour party leader Ed Miliband has drawn an army of fans on social media

Justine Miliband is "bemused" by the sudden outpouring of internet passion for her husband by teenage girls calling themselves the Milifandom, the Labour leader has revealed.

And Ed Miliband admitted he was "blushing" to read some of the comments from his new-found fans, protesting: "I wouldn't claim to be cool."

In the past couple of days, Twitter has been awash with messages marked with the hashtag #milifandom, declaring passion for the Labour leader in tones normally reserved for film stars or pop singers.

Mr Miliband's face has been photoshopped onto images of Superman and James Bond, while a clip of him gazing into the camera to the tune of George Michael singing Careless Whisper racked up almost three million "loops" on video-sharing site Vine.

The trend appears to have been started by a Twitter user with the handle @twcuddleston, who identified herself as a 17-year-old student and Labour Party member called Abby and "leader of the milifandom, a movement against the distorted media portrayal of Ed".

Writing on Twitter, Abby said: "David Cameron doesn't think I deserve the vote because I'm 17.

"I started the milifandom campaign to show how powerful young people are."

With messages announcing "i love ed miliband so much it is painful" and "if I ever met ed miliband I could die happy tbh, he's cool", it was difficult to judge the level of irony involved in the phenomenon, which was the top trending hashtag in the UK for parts of yesterday.

But Mr Miliband said he thought there was a serious point behind the messages, about young people feeling they did not have a voice in a political system which had "done them in".

The Labour leader told BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show: "I found out about it last night and I told my wife about it and she thought it must be a case of mistaken identity.

"I then tried to convince her it wasn't a case of mistaken identity and she went from amused to bemused."

Asked about comments suggesting he was so cool that Tweeters could "die happy" after meeting him, Mr Miliband said: "I'm definitely blushing now.

"I certainly wouldn't claim to be cool, by the way, I don't think I've ever been called that."

Mr Miliband said it was "very nice of these people to be nice about me", but added: "I actually think, to be fair to the young woman who set the whole thing up, she is actually seriously talking about the voice of young people in politics and I think there is a serious point here, which is hearing the voice of young people in our politics.

"I think young people in our country think that this generation - my generation - has done them in."

The Labour leader also sent a Twitter message directly to his young fan, saying: "Hi Abby - Delighted that you've joined Labour, welcome. It's good to hear young people who care about politics speaking up for the things they believe in. There's a lot at stake at this election for young people. I hope more young people will join you and get involved."

Abby retweeted Mr Miliband's messages to her 13,500 followers, but rebuffed requests to talk to the media, saying: "I'm not doing any interviews. I have AS-levels. Sorry."

The vintage of some of the stars on to whose bodies Mr Miliband's head was being pasted - Freddie Mercury, Harrison Ford, David Bowie and Prince - suggested that some of those posting messages were more likely to be middle-aged than teenage.

But the trend marks a shift in popular depictions of the Labour leader, who has previously suffered from being presented as an awkward geek, thanks to photos of him struggling to eat a bacon sandwich and cartoons showing him as animated inventor Wallace.

Labour posted a response on its official Facebook page: "We didn't see this coming ... If you're fired up about Ed, changing Britain, and making your voice heard, we'd love you to be on the team."

Speaking to broadcasters later, Mr Miliband said: "I think One Direction have got nothing to worry about where I'm concerned.

"I think it has caused some bemusement I should say in the Miliband family when I told my wife last night she raised her eyebrows and thought there must be some mistake."

Press Association

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