The internet never forgets, for better or worse. Somewhere online, there’s a record of your most embarrassing moments, either on the Wayback Machine or the Facebook page you opened in college. For most, those things never become viral touchstones that generate memes and faux holidays. Others aren’t so lucky. For former British politician Ed Balls, his viral fame, centered around his now-infamous “Ed Balls” tweet, is his legacy.
For the uninitiated (read: those who don’t spend their only life on Earth feverishly reloading Twitter), Ed Balls is a former member of British Parliament, who on April 28, 2011, mistakenly tweeted “Ed Balls” when trying to search his own name. The tweet went viral and became an annual event known as Ed Balls Day, during which people retweet Balls’ post and write “Ed Balls” on memes and stuff.
Ten years later, Twitter is still doing its Twitter thing, and so is The New York Times, which earlier today published an interview with Balls on his decade or so of being a meme. Surprisingly, the former Labour party MP (and something called “Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer”) has a pretty good handle on the situation. “If my name was Ed Smith it wouldn’t have been the same amusement in there,” he told the Times. He’s even generously left the tweet up, allowing for fans to retweet ad nauseam every April 28 while also sharing some fun Ed Balls memes, like this tweet-inspired cake.
The article goes through the history of the tweet, from its first posting to the annual celebration of Ed Balls Day. In the years since, reports the Times, Balls has continued to play along even as his life took some unexpected turns. Eventually losing his seat in parliament, he appeared on the BBC reality competition shows Celebrity Best Home Cook, which he won, and Strictly Come Dancing, which he did not. But the tweet will be his lasting legacy, a moment in time when we can set aside the chains of partisanship and laugh at a man’s name.
“Whichever country in the world you come from, whether you’re Labour or Conservative in Britain, whether you’re young or old, you can smile at it and laugh at my name,” he said, referring to his name, Balls, a colloquial word for testicles.