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The Election goes social as #Milifandom gets the youth in on the debate

April 30th, 2015 - Posted by Doireann Clabby in Political Media Tracker

He may have failed to strike a chord with large sections of the voting population and been labelled as odd, awkward and the devil incarnate by Britain's right-of-centre press but Ed Miliband seems to have found adulation on social media.

Started by a teenage student Twitter user Abby, who thought that the mainstream media was bullying the Labour leader and not giving him a fair press, #Milifandom has, for the last fortnight, been one of the highest-trending hashtags on Twitter in the UK.  And it is not just Twitter - on Tumblr he's 'Ed Miliband ​Being Sexy' and on Reddit he's represented by his Milifans.

Just two weeks after it caught on, #Milifandom  – as well as #HellYesEd and #CoolEdMiliband – has reached fever pitch.  Abby, an A-Level student from St Helens, now has more than 18,000 followers on Twitter.  She has been copied by hundreds of others all tweeting adoring phrases and Photoshopped pictures of the Labour leader as Superman; with crowns of flowers and with his head superimposed on Poldark's honed physique, scythe in hand.

Abby told the Guardian that her parents loathe the Labour leader, perhaps giving her Twitter campaign a hint of teenage rebellion.  She has not yet told them that she is behind the meme sweeping social media but added: "The thing is my parents really hate Ed Miliband.  I will probably have to break it to them eventually but I want to hold off as long as possible. I think they have voted Tory in the past, but I don't know who they'll vote for this time."

As with much of the campaign, the Conservative response has been slow.  While #Milifandom is regularly appearing more than 20,000 times a day and reaching up to three million Twitter users, its rival - #Cameronettes - is trending at around 5,000 Tweets per day.

The Conservative leader's fan hashtag was dreamt up by Charlie Evans, a 21-year-old Exeter University economics and politics student who said that he wanted to do something about a "left-wing takeover on Twitter".

"I was browsing Twitter and I saw that #milifans was trending.  I laughed at how ridiculous the whole thing was so decided to mock it slightly by suggesting the alternative hashtag, #Cameronettes," he told the Telegraph.  His idea was picked up by somebody else who set up an account to promote the hashtag.

With just two weeks until polling day, #Milifandom shows no sign of losing its momentum and young Conservative #Cameronettes are doing their utmost to keep up.  But what of the other leaders?

There is a #Cleggaholic hashtag which appears to have gained the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister barely any traction with just 20 tweets between April 22 and April 24 in stark contrast to the 2010 election campaign when Cleggmania gripped social media with the phrase 'I agree with Nick'.

And how goes Nigel Farage?  It is probably no surprise that the UKIP leader has failed to set social media on fire.  Perhaps in keeping with his cigarette-smoking, bloke-in-the-pub, strictly-old-school persona, he has yet to attract his own adoring hashtag.

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