31 Jul 2015

Labour leadership: Milifandom founder and conference hero

From two different generation, and backing two different candidates for the Labour leadership. Milifandom founder Abby Tomlinson and 92-year-old Harry Smith tell Channel 4 News who they support.

I think Andy Burnham has the power to unite the party. Abby Tomlinson

Abby Tomlinson, Ed Miliband’s biggest cheerleader, is backing Andy Burnham in the Labour leadership race.

Abby Tomlinson started the Milifan movement on social media after the former Labour leader, Ed MIliband, was getting a hard time about his ‘geeky’ image.

Mr Miliband had been mocked over a series of gaffes – including his failure to elegantly eat a bacon sandwich – when Ms Tomlinson mobilised young Labour supporters to offer him support.

She started the hashtag #milifan to share supportive messages and pictures, beginning what one commentator described as the “the most unlikely cult of the 21st century”.

Andy Burnham

She has since said she will be a Milifan “forever”. However with Mr Miliband relegated to the back benches, the Labour supporter with upwards of 30,000 followers on Twitter, has put her support behind Mr Burnham in the leadership election.

Over the last few months she has met with leadership hopefuls Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Mr Burnham in an effort to decide who to vote for.

She told Channel 4 News: “Jeremy Corbyn does represent this sort of anti-Westminster view that many people within the public hold – but as much as we can say how much we like anti-Westminster politicians, we don’t ever elect any.”

Jeremy Corbyn understands what people are going through. Harry Smith

The surprise hero of last year’s Labour party conference has come out in favour of Jeremy Corbyn for the party’s leader.

Harry Smith, the 92-year-old writer and campaigner who brought delegates to tears last September, believes that only Jeremy Corbyn can lead Labour in the future.

Speaking exclusively to Channel 4 News he said: “You have to know what the lower classes in society are suffering today to be a leader and understand what is necessary to change things.”

It is a blow to Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham who introduced Mr Smith at the party conference in Manchester nine months ago.

The nonagenarian’s moving speech was heralded as the most successful of the conference and commentators at the time suggested the reflected glory was a good thing for Mr Burnham’s leadership credentials.

Andy Burnham

Mr Smith tugged at the heart strings of the Labour faithful with recollections of poverty and premature death before the creation of the National Health Service.

Mr Smith said: “I came into this world in the rough and ready year of 1923. I’m from Barnsley, and I can tell you that my childhood, like so many others from that era, was not like an episode from Downton Abbey.”

He then hugged Mr Burnham on stage, getting a second standing ovation from the crowd.

Now, however, Mr Smith believes it is Mr Burnham’s opponent in the Labour leadership race, the left-winger Mr Corbyn who is right for the top job.