Apparently David Cameron looks like a Prime Minister – which must surely be based on the fact that he is the Prime Minister rather than on any notion that he’s actually any good at it. Not that I’m claiming that Ed Miliband necessarily would be a good Prime Minister either but, really: Call-me-Dave is no leader, is he, not by any measurable means. He can’t command the loyalty of his troops, he’s really terrible at negotiating, he’s crap at strategy and he thinks in puddle-deep box sets. And as for his policies: they are ridiculous, petty, ignorant, cruel and extortionate. What Dave is good at, though, is insisting on the validity of tosh, pretending that he has had a coherent plan all along and reverting to the mob mentality of jeering and bullying when cornered. What he is good at is whipping out his serious face and reddening it on demand. He’s excellent at that. There is no real substance to this man, neither in his philosophy nor his expression of personality. He thinks and speaks in short straight dashes and disconnected particles.
Maybe Ed really isn’t as popular as Dave. I wonder what difference it would make to public perceptions if the Media weren’t quite so keen to keep making us think this. Obviously his policies should be critiqued, just as Cameron’s should be. Both men provide plenty of scope for that! But Ed is treated as though he were one of those awkward kids at school who had trouble fitting in because no one would let him. Jeez! He’s even been asked straight to his face if he thinks he is ‘normal’!
We all knew those kids in school: something about their background, physical appearance, speech patterns, an eccentric personality – anything, real or made up, that made them an easy and constant target for the ‘popular’ kids. Well that’s the eager bullying attitude that echoes through the media and, indeed, many a Twitter hashtag. He’s not the only regular victim, of course. Any public person and many a private individual are fair game for those who would rather play the wo/man than the ball; for those, so impotent in their anger, that they will relish any opportunity for the brief satisfaction of cheap, irrelevant, infantile spite. We all knew those kids at school, too, didn’t we? And some never grow out of it, do they..?
I wonder how differently Cameron would be received by the electorate if the media were to show him the same level of relish for personalised disrespect; if it focused constantly on his personal appearance, that diction, the head bobbing, his mannerisms and personality with the same opportunistic degree of attention. How marvellous it would be if the media had actually bothered to properly scrutinise his policies these last years!
It’s one thing to be gently amused at someone’s public gaffs; to facepalm at the ease with which public figures can gift satire; to despair over unintended farce. But isn’t it quite another when those with the public power seem to want so much to negatively frame a person’s character that it is prioritised to distraction? And is this personalised shredding not relentless? And if a person is always framed a certain way, where do the cause and the effect begin and end?
Ed is probably not the best leader Labour could have come up with. (Forget his brother. He is no loss unless you think another Blairite or Cameronian is what the country needs.) But Ed is commonly perceived to be an intelligent, thoughtful, decent man, speaking from the heart, with a serious intent to govern in the interests of everyone. It’s because his policies are such a poor reflection of this that he deserves the ridicule or criticism. The rest is really extra curricular bitchy dross.
Every day, the disabled, the mentally ill, single parents, the unemployed are bullied based on ignorant preconceptions and meanness of spirit. Every day there is a story somewhere about the serious problems our kids are facing with the pressures of online bullying, sexting, nomination etc. Every day there is anxiety about the world we are creating and leaving to the next generations. We like to hold ourselves up as beacons of sexual, racial, gender equality and the like and yet our default is still to the sorry playground politics of irrational, shallow, mob-handed prejudice.
Those who want to or intend to vote Labour appear to do so for two main reasons: 1) they actually still believe in/agree with Labour or 2) they know the country just could not stand another Conservative-led term and that, in spite of its increasing inter-party and party-electorate relationship disarray, Labour is currently the only viable alternative (at least by numbers). I’m currently in the miserable latter group, wishing I could be in the first.
I don’t know if Ed Miliband will be a good Prime Minister but I do know David Cameron is absolutely not. I feel sick at the thought of having to choose by virtue of a lesser evil. Labour is not sufficient to my needs and vision but the Cons are utterly detrimental to both. I’m worried about a great deal of Labour’s materialising manifesto because it is mostly merely tinkering with the problems of neoliberalism rather than dismantling it and delivering alternative narratives but I’m not so doubtful of Ed’s general good intent or integrity. It’s difficult to distinguish whether Labour’s Tory-lite policies are driven by populist panic or by true belief but there is, nonetheless, more hope in this sad shambles than the current crop of Cons could ever muster, even if it wanted to.
Ed might be as awkward, clumsy, perhaps, as does the Media present him but, while I appreciate the preference, even the need for a bit of polish and charisma, I at least don’t look at Ed and see a jumped-up, moralising, divisive and superficial character as I do when I look at Dave. I don’t see the inauthentic, quite so self-serving PR stuntman in Ed that I see in Dave. I see in Ed, a man who might not fit the traditional ‘alpha’ mould but who has shown, at times, that he has some courage in his bones. I see a man who may or may not want to, or even be able to create sufficient escape velocity from the corporatised world but I think he will, at least, not so readily bow down before it. What I also see is a man thus far surrounded by too much truly dismal advice. If he cannot be the engine of true progress then he will simply have to serve as the brakes on this bullshit bus we’re travelling in while we figure out the next move. And, yes: that sucks.