There is sure to be an intern at CCHQ whose Camfandom idea didn’t get much of a hearing at the Monday morning hangout. When the #Cameronettes did begin to trend on the coattails of the milifans it had as much organic credibility as a cheese string. It doesn’t matter whether the origin of this blue swooning is a genuine teenage Camfan- the whole thing reeked of a cheap knock-off to an already shallow original, a Here’say to milifandom’s S-Club.
The brilliance behind milifandom is that it hooked humorous content into a narrative of defiance: a politically excluded group –young women- using social media to challenge the smears and fears of mainstream reporting on Ed. Whoever @twcuddleston is -17 year old hailing from true blue stock? A Blue Slate consultant? Grant Shapps?- once the moniker spread it was seized on by Labour HQ, who as of yesterday were managing media requests for the creator.
Where much of the content put out by political parties struggles to reach beyond the orbit of the already converted (see this map of the twittersphere), milifandom cut across boundaries by becoming a lynchpin for images of Miliband’s gawking visage a top of the greased torsos of Rambo and Daniel Craig. Miliband’s geeky image –for so long a focal point for mockery – became a charm to be weaponised. Efforts to replicate the trend with Cameron entirely missed the point: where Ed taps into geek chic (somewhere between Zuckerberg and The Inbetweener’s Simon Bird), Cameron is the branch manager you go to speak to about getting a student loan. The only way for the supporters of other parties to join in was through overt parody; the #SturGents, #Nigettes and #BennettBoys were following not leading.
When the history of Election 2015 is written the milifans and cameronettes will at most be footnotes. But what they say about how the personalities of our politicians are configured does merit some reflection. If the modern politician is cut off from ordinary people it is not only due to their elite status; the manner in which party campaign teams shelter their man from the unexpected- all encounters are managed, the Gillian Duffys are kept well away- reinforces the gap. Observing Cameron and his entourage on the trail, Marina Hyde writes of a PM who “wore the anxious air of a man who absolutely does not wish to be approached.” Team Ed are equally as overbearing, with a press officer here caught dragging to the ground an unwelcome cameraman.
It wasn’t always like this. In the 1992 campaign John Major went around the country with an actual soapbox. He would spontaneously set up his stand on street corners and to a non-vetted audience of activists, journalists and -yes- real people proceed to argue his case. Where Sir John thrived on combatting heckling troublemakers the Camerons of today have not been exposed to such in the fray politicking. These days managed trending is the supplement for engagement.