Published on 20 Apr 2015

Will Milimania end the way Cleggmania did?

If we didn’t all know how the story of Cleggmania ended five years ago, I might be tempted to start sounding off about Milimania. I refer most recently to the somewhat implausible spectacle of Ed Miliband being mobbed by a hen party, describing him alternately as “adorable” or “lovely”.

Implausible because this is the man who has been roundly mocked by the media for everything from gobbling a bacon sarnie to giving money to a homeless lady. So it does seem rather puzzling that he’s now getting the kind of reception to which Nick Clegg became accustomed before the bubble burst and he threw in his lot with David Cameron. What’s going on?

The first thing to say is that the improvement in Miliband’s popularity does appear to be genuine, if the polls are to be believed. A Survation poll discovered earlier this month that his personal approval rating had overtaken the prime minister’s for the first time. And, in findings which mirror Clegg’s popularity among young voters pre-2010, a new poll from the youth research agency YouthSight, has shown a rapid increase in the number of students liking Miliband, up from 4 per cent in February to 11 per cent now. The question is why?

Labour is convinced the TV debates have gone well for its leader, and it is certainly the case that a general election campaign gives any opposition leader the chance to get the kind of airtime and newspaper coverage normally accorded only to a prime minister. But there must be more to it than that. After all, putting Miliband on TV or on the front of a newspaper hasn’t always gone that well for him in the past. Much-maligned by journalists, the Labour leader has struggled to look prime ministerial, as Nicola Sturgeon was reported to have told the French ambo.

Perhaps Brits, ever-supportive of the underdog, have tired of the negativity both of the press and Conservative campaign HQ. As a minutely-scripted, anally-retentive election campaign unfolds, you can’t blame voters for being tempted to adopt a contrarian position.

That was partly what fuelled Cleggmania last time round. Faced with the establishment alternatives, people thought for a moment that Nick Clegg looked like a breath of fresh air. And for students, the promise on tuition fees was an offer too good to refuse – too good to be true as it turned out.

But Labour spinners frantically retweeting the hen party selfies (#Ed #henparty #adorable #lovely) should remember what happened to Cleggmania in the privacy of the ballot box. The Lib Dems won five fewer seats. #awkward.

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5 reader comments

  1. a murray says:

    I think that ed millaband has been a revelation, and turned the tables on the consevatives

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Cathy,

    What “Milimania”?

    The “mania” manufactured by neocon wholly-owned far right mainstream media?

    The sort of “mania” that keeps talentless jobsworth journos in a job?

    1. Andy says:

      Did you read the article? She is describing Milimania as people warming to him, not some rightwing Hachet job.

  3. Philip says:

    It’s shown why Cameron was scared of head to head debates. The right-wing media have built Milliband up as either a weak, weird nerd and/or in hock to the unions as “socialist” “Red Ed”. Of course, he’s none of these and wider public exposure of the actual individual was bound to show that he was more normal & less destructive of our economic & social institutions than Mail, Sun, etc readers would have us believe.
    It’s likely that some of the novelty of realising he’s not all that different from the rest of the political class (including Cameron & Clegg) will wear off.
    But you can see that the original Tory tactic of painting him as weird & red has failed & the scaremongering is now focussed on the SNP telling Labour what to do.
    Funny how Cameron doesn’t wish to mention his record in government, the IMF and OBR forecasts that suggests that his policies for ending the deficit are as wobbly as an unset jelly and that his bribes to the electorate are funded on thin air.
    It’s the classic Tory election campaign – scaremongering so we’ll vote from fear rather than hope.
    (And what he doesn’t say, but perhaps Labour should – if you don’t want the SNP to hold the balance of power, Scottish Tories should vote Labour en masse!)

  4. Greg Neill says:

    Not sure I understand this analysis. So far as I know, nothing happened to Cleggmania by voting day. What happened was probably that voters knew that Clegg wasn’t going to be PM, so it was less important what they thought of him personally. In a close election they voted either Tory or Labour. His loss of popularity started after the coalition had formed.

    With Miliband it matters a great deal. Nobody wants a leader who seems awkward, flustered or clueless representing them on the world stage. If people have started to question the way he’s been represented that could be crucial.

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