Ed Miliband is challenging the way we do politics. Quite right too

By Emma.
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On Saturday, the Daily Mail published one of the most horrendous example of the dark political arts I have ever come across. Forget Damian McBride, to denigrate (yes Geoffrey – to traduce even) the life of a dead man for political advantage is about as low as it is possible to stoop.

I have written previously about the positive aspects of the Daily Mail. The reasons I have enjoyed reading it in the past and the reasons other do too. The people I know who read the Daily Mail are good people. Conservative (sometimes with a small c, sometimes with a large one) they are people who could best be described as encapsulating the ideals of faith, flag and family. They would all be horrified to see an attack on a dead family member (and especially one who fought in the Royal Navy during the war) be seen as fair political game. It is not, and it should not be.

Ralph Miliband is hardly the first victim of this kind of shoddy journalism nor the Daily Mail the singular perpetrator. Other victims that spring to mind are Cherie Booth and Miriam González Durántez, both of whom have constant attacks made in the media on their jobs, character and choices simply by dint of being married to political leaders.

But tonight, Ed Miliband has drawn a line in the sand. He has demanded – and received – right of reply to the Daily Mail article. In doing so, he may have made one of his strongest interventions yet, changing the way we do politics in this country and making a start on rescuing our debate from the gutter and those who see the role of the press as belonging in that gutter.

Politics is incredibly important. If affects the lives of everyone. But genuine information is hard to come by, informed debate even harder. scrutiny of our politicians – their belief and their personal trustworthiness to deliver on those beliefs is essential. But personal attacks simply put off yet more people from involving themselves in the horrific blood sport that is modern politics.

This is why the MacBride book damages all of us. Not because he had a “smoking gun” (he didn’t) but because his kind of behavior and his odd crowing about it even while claiming repentance makes politics an unattractive place for all but the most godawful macho dick-swingers. Too many good people are put off doing politics well by aggressive people doing it badly.

By challenging the Mail to do politics better – and by making clear efforts to rid Labour of the poisonous briefing culture that MacBride embodied at our worst – Ed is matching plans to democratise Labour’s relationship with union members and expanding the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. All of these measures and others talk about a new way of doing politics, a popular promise the Coalition made early in their government and have routinely failed to deliver.

The Tory message on Ed is clearly in disarray this week. They don’t know whether to keep calling him weak or start calling him dangerous. Doing both just makes them look daft. But with this move, Ed has shown himself to once again be strong in standing up for what matters – not just to him personally (as his father’s reputation clearly and rightly does) but to all those from every party who want to see a better way of conducting our politics.

Now is the time for those from other Parties to speak up and stand by Ed on this issue. It is too important for all of us who desire a more civil and better informed debate not to.

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4 comments to “Ed Miliband is challenging the way we do politics. Quite right too”

  1. Comment by SimonFa:

    I don’t like the DM at all but that’s bye the bye, its good that he got a right to reply and hopefully there will be more of it.

    However I see what happened as just a continuation of McBride’s arts and more a reflection of big government and the tribalism that you are so proud of. The more we concentrate power in the hands of a few the more desperate people from right and left will become to get and hold it. What we are seeing in the USA is the logical extension of where our politics are going.

    PS You were right on this week’s podcast, the Tory’s marriage tax allowance is barmy and divisive.

  2. Comment by SimonFa:

    Hmm, perhaps I should have thought about this a bit more.

    When Maggie announced that Hayek was what “we” believed, Hayek was studied in many places and denounced as being selfish, capitalist etc. Fair enough.

    If some other Labour politician had held up Ralph Miliband as their inspiration and driving force then an investigation into his beliefs would have been equally justified and, in the nature of tribal politics would have led to attacks by the other tribe. When Ed started using his father as a political prop he opened him up to this sort of attack, right or wrong, and should have known better.

    It is no different to a politician who uses being an an upstanding family man to help in elections complaining when someone points out flaws in that relationship and defects in their family.

    I see he got his reply and that hasn’t worked well, unless the aim was to keep Labour on the front pages getting some sympathy during the Tory conference, but surely no tribe would be that cynical.

    Perhaps it shouldn’t be like this but that is the world we live in and Ed should have seen it coming.

  3. Comment by Emma:

    If you want to examine RM’s ideas as part of what has shaped Ed, go right ahead, that’s fair game.

    But saying he “hated Britain” and making jokes about his grave are not a politics I am happy to support. And I have said as much about Thatcher too.

    And this is my tribalism. It mirrors my patriotism. It is the positive celebration of the collective, without ever seeking to hide that collective’s faults and constantly seeking to improve it. It is my tribal loyalty to my party that pushes me to do so.

    Damian McBride – on the other hand – was anything but a tribalist. His was the cult of idol worship. Loyalty not to a collective whole, but to an individual. That is how he was able to justify such constant, internecine attacks in a way no real tribalist ever could or should.

  4. Comment by SimonFa:

    Now I have read some of his works at marxist.org and a lot more about him through blogs like the Marxist Chris Dillow’s Stumbling and Mumbling (one of my favourite blogs) and Norm Blog. I also listened to Tony Benn yesterday and a few other interviews.

    Before I say what I think about the Millibands, lest you think I’m from some sort of privileged background I too was influenced by may father. He was born in the slums of Bradford in 1925. He won a scholarship, with bursary, to Bradford Grammar School when he was 14 but wasn’t allowed to take it up because he had to go and earn his keep and to help look after the family. His father was a drunk, but in hindsight that was probably due to WW1 PTSD. He went in to the mills before joining the Fleet Air Arm for the last two years of the war. He served in the Far East and after the war his ship brought back the some of freed POWs from Japanese camps. He then went back in to the mills and was an active union member, until he left disillusioned.

    Back to Milliband. Whilst reading some of his essays I tried to keep in mind the times that it was written, in the same way I do when I read about the madness of McCarthy-ism. I was also conscious about his own experience that led him to Britain. I am also aware that some of my conclusions are based on post hoc events.

    So what do I now think? Well, my short foray in to his writings and life don’t make me an expert and I’ll even accepts that I may have missed some of his more important works, but here goes:

    I still think he didn’t hated Britain, although he does seem to have despised our institutions. That in itself isn’t a problem although I can see the terminally stupid thinking that because we offered the hand of friendship he had no right to criticise. They are wrong because often it is outsiders who can see the flaws best.

    On his ideas about democratic socialism, or whatever you want to call it, he was a sincere but deluded fool but as I said, I understand the period he was writing in he didn’t have the experience of seeing socialism fail every time it has been tried. However, that Ed still believe in it does make him a fool, and a dangerous one because he has had chance to see that, in the words of Hayek, it is the Road to Serfdom.

    So now you are thinking I’m some sort of neo liberal or Libertarian (I am, but not in the sense you think) and if that is the term you want to use for anti-authoritarians then so be it. I do support your, and the Labour Party’s, aims like more and better housing, alleviation of poverty and the general improvement in everyone’s lifestyle, I just don’t support your means. I prefer the Scandinavian model which is to let the free markets generate the wealth first, but that’s another debate.

    In conclusion the DM was wrong in what it printed and I haven’t changed my mind about it. It is nasty as they are they are entitled to their opinions, even if borne of ignorance.

    Sorry for being long winded, perhaps I should restart blogging!

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