Ed Miliband's facial hair causes minor furore online

There are serious political stories being reported today; this isn't strictly one of them.

A picture of Ed Miliband apparently on holiday in Australia was originally posted to Twitter on Thursday morning by Mike Bird, a reporter for the website Business Insider. It showed the former Labour leader with two unidentified fans - but more to the point, sporting a distinct layer of stubble.

The pic propelled the hashtag #Milibeard into the list of top UK trends on Twitter, although reaction was perhaps a notch or two less than the "hysteria" some have reported, with about 3,000 tweets using the tag over the course of four hours. Bird later rued: "Economics is not a good beat to cover for scoops, might switch to Ed Miliband facial hair news."

Of course, the photo sparked dozens of memes, with many speculating on what might happen if Miliband lets the beard run its natural course:

Image copyright Brian Alcorn
Image copyright Twitter

Others were quick to compare his stubble with the facial hair of his potential successors. "Basically this is Ed Miliband subtly trying to tell us he's endorsing Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Leader," @Furqan_Naeem speculated.

Image copyright Ben @jamin2g

Is there any lasting political lesson from this? If so, it's probably about Twitter's strange obsession with the former Labour leader. As BBC Trending has reported, during the general election campaign Miliband inspired countless memes and trending hashtags like #milifandom - but of course this didn't translate into victory.

In terms of major non-stubble-related political stories, there's plenty to read about the ongoing Labour leadership battle, the Chancellor's call for planning law reform, and much more on the BBC Politics page.

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