Written by Stuart Mercer
It was a rather strange feeling when I found myself retweeting two tweets written by Peter Hitchens on Sunday morning. Almost completely opposed in our views, it was even stranger to think they were supporting Ed Miliband. Hitchens himself admits that he and Miliband ‘disagree on almost everything’, so why has he publicly revealed he may vote Labour in the coming election?
The Mail on Sunday columnist hasn’t voted in an incredibly long time despite being so politically active, yet has suggested he may vote Labour because of the media onslaught against Miliband since he won the Labour leadership in 2010. There can be little doubt that Miliband has been grossly mistreated by the media, whether you’re a supporter or not. No politician has ever come under such strict, personal scrutiny as Ed Miliband and it’s highly likely that in the long run he will be better for it, but I think it’s fair to say the average person would have crumbled under the tirade of abuse he’s faced for the past four and a half years. It’s for this reason, it seems, that Hitchens wishes to vote for him and I completely understand why.
A vote for Labour (or Ed Miliband) is, in my opinion, a vote against the actions of the press. It’s highly likely that if you asked a random member of the public their first thought upon hearing the name ‘Ed Milband’, the response would be something along the lines of ‘bacon sandwich, fuck off beaker, Wallace & Gromit looking weirdo’. Is that what politics in Britain has come to? Will a general election be decided on a beauty contest? It’s been extraordinary to see the outcome of the first TV ‘debate’, as pathetic as the setup was. Considering most of the electorate view Cameron as the ‘stronger’ of the two Prime Ministerial candidates, it has been Miliband’s performance which has stuck in the memory for longer. He was, at times, forceful, persuasive and seemed very relaxed answering questions from both the audience and Jeremy Paxman. Isn’t it fascinating that when presented with an unbiased platform, Miliband succeeded in not looking completely incompetent? Perhaps this is best encapsulated by Dan Hodges, writing for the Telegraph. “Removed from the context of the full interview, Miliband’s “I’m ‘ard I am. You watch yourself Paxo. I’m ‘ard as nails” routine makes for awkward viewing.” But of course it makes for awkward viewing taken out of context and represented in that way. That’s the whole point of watching the full interview. And maybe, just maybe, the majority of those soundbites and photos and awkward clips of Miliband have indeed been taken out of context, time and time again.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Polling data released today by Lord Ashcroft shows that the gap between Cameron and Miliband’s personal approval ratings has narrowed since the TV appearance. Not by a great deal, but it is a start for a potential Prime Minister who has appeared to be on the verge of a leadership challenge for what seems like eternity. It hasn’t been at all fashionable to support Miliband, with even some of the most staunch Labour supporters I know admitting that it might have been time for a quick change over the past two years. But that’s the last thing the rightwing media would have wanted. In Ed Miliband, they’ve found themselves an easy whipping boy. He hasn’t only made a few, natural political errors, but he looks ridiculous as well.
It worries me that there might have been a young person eager to engage with politics and serve on the frontline in the future. It worries me because what if that young person felt they looked weird? What if they thought, “If I ever achieve national recognition as a politician, what if my physical flaws are attacked?” Isn’t that an incredibly depressing thought? Should it not be the intellectual prowess and strength of character that we measure our leaders on? Or, perhaps, their ability to lead our country effectively through times of crisis and peace, not their ability to win an election?
It’s not as if media bias is anything new, of course. But it seems to me that the campaign against Ed Miliband has stepped over the line on numerous occasions and has certainly dragged this election campaign down a few levels of morality before it even got going. I might be wrong, but I view Ed Miliband as a decent guy who is trying to do what he believes is right for his country. For this reason, and many others, I’ll be voting with Peter Hitchens on election day.