A short history of #EdBallsDay

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The 28th April is an illustrious day in history, for it was on this day in 2011 that Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer made the mistake of tweeting his own name – presumably during a vanity search to see what people were saying about him. For most politicians, searching for yourself on Twitter is probably never a good idea – but for Balls, it was about to get all the more surreal.

Inexplicably, this launched one of Twitter’s most persistent memes, which saw users retweet the famous tweet, repeatedly. This has continued ever since. At the time of writing, it has had over 26,000 retweets – that’s 8000 more retweets than votes Balls received in the last election, in the marginal seat of Morley and Outwood.

The height of the Balls phenomenon didn’t fully peak though until last year’s Ed Balls Day – not just one, but two years on (Hey, it took the world a few years to get around to appreciating Christianity, too).

Clearly sensing the public mood, Balls’ wife – the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper also got in on the action.

And with the pressure on for Balls to respond to the public outcry – he eventually caved in and did what the public wanted:

Proof of just how wide the phenomenon went is evident on Google Trends – notice the huge spike last April – illustrating that the pull of the meme is bigger than any other reason Balls would be searched for (and remember, he is a pretty important public figure).

Bizarrely in the last year the tweet has also become not just a Twitter in-joke, but also a political tool. In January Nick Clegg tweeted “Ed Balls” as rumours swirled about an attempted rapprochement between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, with both thinking of after the next election. The tweet was essentially a coded message to LibDem supporters that Clegg might be interested in coalition with Labour in 2015.

So has the phenomenon peaked? Will the same thing happen this year? Tune into @EdBallsMP at 16:20 to find out, I guess.

Update (16:34): Ed didn’t disappoint!

James O’Malley