This must be a first: What #webackEd Means

November 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm (blogosphere, labour party, posted by JD, reblogged, reformism, strange situations)

The left social democrat sociologist Phil Burton-Cartledge of All That Is Solid wrote the following piece and posted it on Sunday. It’s since been republished at the broadly neo-Con Harry’s Place and the Bennite Left Futures. I thought I’d ensure it’s a record by putting it up here as well. Just goes to show that Ed Miliband has defenders (albeit some highly critical) in all sorts of  unlikely places: or more to the point, that serious people across the leftist spectrum understand the need for a Labour government and despise what the nameless Blairite plotters are up to:

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. februarycallendar said,

    I can understand why certain people in the party want Alan Johnson, simply because he was one of the very few working-class trade unionists actually to hold high office in the Blair and Brown governments; the argument that Miliband is too much of a Hampstead liberal to unite the working-class vote and hold back UKIP does have some legs to it. Because Johnson isn’t really a “celebrity politician” in the Blair sense, wanting him isn’t quite the same thing as purely and simply wanting someone who can be more convincing on Strictly Come Dancing than the Today programme, for all that he does have the rock music connections that Miliband doesn’t.

    But you can only work with what you have. We all know that the age-old working-class trade unionist / Hampstead liberal divisions in the Labour Party have been skewed massively in the latter’s favour as a result of terror vandalism enacted by a Right which had become petrified that the very state itself would crumble in the face of working-class power. But Miliband cannot be blamed for that; he was given this world, he didn’t make it (why do I always quote Tupac in these circumstances? I’m glad I do, anyway). And his ideas are the best we can practically get at the moment. And even if he has been cringing to his enemies, Thatcher put out a lot of reconciliatory gestures to the agents of the post-war state between 1975 and 1979. We have to stick together, and hope. And even if you live in a seat where your vote doesn’t really matter in strictly electoral terms – either because Labour can’t lose (though perhaps in Rotherham a critical Labour vote matters more now in pure electoral terms than at any time anyone can remember) or because Labour can’t win – a good proportional vote will still make a Labour government appear more legitimate and able to change more, even if it doesn’t effect the actual make-up of parliament.

    And yes, this is a great piece – shared it on Facebook myself.

    (It also brings on another element of the “Miliband as Thatcher in reverse” argument; he’s having to overcome a lot of abuse from certain tribalistic elements in his party much as she did, only he is being attacked for being too privileged, and she was attacked for not being privileged enough.)

  2. februarycallendar said,

    (incidentally, when I saw the title of this piece on HP I assumed the worst – that it would be saying that Miliband has no chance and that Labour have no chance unless they get a Blair clone, etc. Never been happier to be proved wrong.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: