What to say about Ed

It’s the decision that will determine Labour’s fate over the next five years. It’s the difference between a demoralising era of electoral devastation for the party, and the chance to mount an effective challenge on the next polling day. It’s the choice that could make Labour a force that’s ready for power, or inaugurate a bleak era of impotence.

No, it isn’t the election of a new leader. That matters, of course, but the effect of having one is probably as important as the effect of choosing any individual candidate over the rest. Even with no leader and only a provisional shadow cabinet, the gap between Labour and the Tories has been narrowing consistently in polls since the summer, with public attitudes hardening against the cuts. If Labour can organise itself behind a face that isn’t implicated in the perceived failures of the Blair/Brown period, sustaining and advancing that trend should be obvious. (I’m not saying that Labour can’t fuck this up. Just that it would be an impressive fuck-up if they did.)

Ed Miliband seems likely to do a decent job heading up his party. But there’s another  big call to make: how is the hostile media going to characterise him? There’s been an early move to mark him out as “Red Ed”, but that seems like a smear based on the mistaken assumption that the British public is as riotously anti-state as the American one – it isn’t, and anyway Ed is only pinkish round the edges. The Express has even made an early run at the Tea Party approach, with a story headlined “DEDICATED LEFT WINGER FOLLOWS HIS FATHER’S DREAM” apparently modeled on Dinesh D’Souza’s voodoo analysis of Obama (“Obama shares his father’s anti-colonial crusade…”). The gulf between The Express’ curtain-twitching paranoia and the grand insanity of Fox News is filled with bathos, and this stuff looks unlikely to stick for now.

Matthew Parris made a more convincing move, interviewed on the BBC at the Labour conference today, when he said that in five years Ed Miliband would be known as a “ditherer”. By lunchtime, Christina Odone had grabbed the idea and bundled it up with the Mail’s astonishing revelation that Miliband LIVES WITH A WOMAN and HAS HAD A BABY WITH THE WOMAN but is NOT MARRIED TO THE WOMAN. “This is a man who has problems with relationships,” oozes Odone, accusing Miliband of “commitment phobia” as if Ed was liable to run out on the country and leave the electorate chasing his through the CSA.

The Tory-supporting media is shuffling the elements at their disposal like Frankenstein playing with a set of body parts on his operating table (Son of a commie dad! Usurper of primogeniture! Scorner of wedlock!). Eventually, they’re going to make something that’s just close enough to the actual man for it to be functional.

Text © Sarah Ditum, 2010

7 thoughts on “What to say about Ed

  1. My children have been brought up by both parents out of wedlock. When I told my son that Ed Milliband wasn’t married he said ‘that’s brilliant’. Maybe there are many of us out there in the actual world, not the Daily Mail’s version of the world who know it is possible to create a safe, loving environment for kids to grow up in without spending thousands on a party and signing a piece of paper. A lot of kids are sick of the pro-marriage education they get in schools that tell them their parent’s relationship is less valuable because they’re not married, or that they are at risk of underachievement because they are brought up by a single mum.
    Why anyone thinks that putting a gold band on a woman’s finger shows more commitment than having children with her and sharing a mortgage with her remains a mystery to me.

  2. I’m married now, but wasn’t at the time I had my two children: I just happened to get pregnant first, and it made no difference at all to the commitment between us as a family. So I totally agree. From a vote-winning perspective, it probably does make sense to marry (you won’t lose many votes for being unmarried, but you won’t lose *any* for being married), and I’d guess that his relationship is being framed this way so that when he does slouch to the registry office, that can be portrayed as a failure of his character too. Lousy stuff, really.

  3. The right wingers seems to happily jumping on whatever they can because obviously they know nothing about him. Like you say, he’s pink around the edges, so it’s just misfortune that his name rhymes with ‘red’. (I wonder if we can pull a similar trick with the Tories? ‘George the Gorge’? Nah. We’d never be so petty. Oh wait. I forgot. Yes, I am that petty.)

    And Christina Odone… what can you say? Used to be on the The New Statesman, and not shit, then left, presumably because she was shit. Apparently, she decided that being Catholic was more important to her than being right, and now she’s, well, one of the pope’s evil henchman. I’d care what she said if this was, you know, like 1410. But it’s not, is it? It’s, like, 600 years later than that, isn’t it? So maybe she should shut up now.

    (I’d like to point out that the fact that my children were born in wedlock was a complete fluke, necessitated by British immigration. No, it doesn’t matter. And any suggestion to the contrary is just *stupid*. Massively, completely *stupid*.)

    (And, actually, I have no real evidence that Odone wasn’t always shit. But I like the New Statesman, so I assume…)

    Great post, Sarah.

  4. Odone is a bloody idiot. That should be all, but for some reason (I read the comments on her piece so I could ‘recommend’ those that slagged her off), the CSA seems to be a right-wing trigger point. “People should marry for life, but it they don’t, what business is it of the state if men bugger off and don’t pay for their kids?” That, more or less, seems to be the consensus of the Odone supporters.

  5. I skimmed some Telegraph comments at the end of a Boris Johnson column. They included: some racism, some PC-gone-mad, and a genuine reference to the New World Order. I am never, never doing that again. It’s too disturbing.

  6. Hopefully, not too many folks will be bothered with Ed’s marital status atm. I’m sure things will be rectified once a little ‘Ed’ makes its entrance, cf Leo Blair.

    I totally agree with your first paragraph. Labour needs to work out what it now stands for, in relation to its past history and its near future. Let’s hope Ed’s election will re-ignite the party!

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