– Guest post by Emily Evans (@EmzieEvs)
The new and trending ‘#Milifandom’: a fresh wave of young Labour supporters, or just another ironic hashtag? For those of you who aren’t completely up-to-date with internet slang, this refers to a “fandom” (a group of dedicated, often obsessive, fans) devoted entirely to Ed Miliband (‘milifan’- Miliband, get it?) and the Labour Party. As a member of “today’s youth”, and proud fangirl, I must admit that I was immediately excited by the prospect. It’s always an intriguing experience to observe internet culture integrate with the world of politics.
As the 2015 General Election creeps up on us, parties and democratic societies have been scrambling around in an attempt to (at last) capture the Youth Vote. However, this surprising wave of popularity for the Labour party has not come from the party itself, but from 17-year-old twitter user, and Labour fanatic, Abby (@twcuddleston), who kick-started the hashtag in an attempt to debunk Ed’s “distorted media portrayal” and help to inform young people of what the Labour party has to offer them. #milifandom appears to have become an online phenomenon, reaching UK “trending” status practically overnight, which leads us to question why the major parties struggle to capture young supporters, and wonder whether the supporters themselves should be leading the campaign strategies, especially in an increasingly digital world. The 2010 General Election witnessed it’s first ever televised leaders debate and now, five years later, the online media has never been more vital to politics. Hashtags such as ‘#BiteTheBallot’ and ‘#GE2015’ have dominated the youth political scene, along with an array of online media campaigns from every side of the political spectrum.
But what does this all mean for the future of political engagement for young people? In my honest opinion, I believe politics will continue to integrate into a much more informal, engaging, and possibly transparent nature, ready to engage the 18-25 year old voters who have fallen behind on turn outs for so many years. When answering why Miliband’s “fandom” has been such a hit, I’m afraid that I’m at a loss. However, I can only assume that it is simply because it reached out in a new, original, and relatable way that cannot be replicated in the same way by any other party, and has thus captured the attention (and hearts) of many twitter users across the UK.