I like Ed Miliband. And I think, whether or not you agree with his party's political stance, you would be hard pressed not to. The geeky, second-generation immigrant, trod the well-worn path of PPE at Oxford, and progressed into the depths of the Labour Party soon after. He later surfaced as MP for Doncaster North and subsequently entered the cabinet as secretary of state for energy and climate change. Diane Abbot once described Ed as a "genuinely nice and principled person", and I find little reason to disagree with this. When he talks about his developing vision for the country, and a desire to help those most in need, I believe him.
Ed knew he needed to hit the ground running on the Channel 4 TV debates, and in a bizarre, if inimitable style, he did just this. Despite acting like his pre-debate water had been spiked with amphetamines, Ed was all energy and personality. When the perma-smug Paxman pressured Miliband over being a 'geek', and inferior to his brother, I wanted to hug the exacerbated oddball. Whether it was intentional or not, Paxman did Ed a huge favour in these final exchanges.
I believe that the old maxims of British fair play and a sense of decorum do still hold some truth; and it was both these that stirred within me under the intensely personal questioning of Miliband's oddness, and lack of quality compared to his older sibling. Even Paxman felt obliged to ask if Ed was 'alright' as the cameras faded. For better or worse, Ed came across as reassuringly human, and tangibly vulnerable. Whilst Blair and Cameron threatened to put Brylcreem out of business with their combined slick, and Gordon Brown was simply unlikeable, he is a breath of fresh air in the unerring spotlight of modern politics.
Unfortunately Miliband has not managed to completely avoid the air of boorish masculinity and blame that still hangs over British politics like a bad smell. I hope for his sake, that if he makes it into power, Miliband is not permanently stained by these traits. His recent gleeful reaction to David Cameron stating he wouldn't seek a third term if elected is one example of this debasing. The news is a complete 'non-story', and should not have been given the time of day by the Labour Party. If they think that jumping on the back of such ridiculous media snipes is going to get them to power, they are sadly mistaken. Come on Ed, you're better than that.
But is Ed too nice? Does he have that streak of steel that is needed to govern a relatively powerful state like Britain? In the schoolyard of British politics, whilst David Cameron is the rich kid who shopped at Hugo Boss for his Christmas disco outfit, and probably pulled because of it. Ed, is the guy who spent three weeks of his summer holidays working on a year eight chemistry PowerPoint, only to fluff his lines in front of some jeering classmates.
Image: Department of Energy and Climate Change (Archived) via Flickr
It is this vulnerability and lack of media sass which led to the majority of his party members and MPs voting for his elder brother in the infamous fraternal leadership contest. Ed's bacon (pun intended) was only saved by the trade union vote, who probably thought the same qualities would make him more pliable, and open to reversing New Labour's continued drift to the centre. But after watching the TV debates, I had to agree with Miliband when he pointed out that a lot was chucked at him over the last couple of years, and he was still going, still fighting.
While he won't ooze an oily charm like Cameron and company, and there is a very real possibility of a prominent gaff at some point, a part of me hopes Ed Miliband gets in. You may not agree with his party's politics - but I'm curious. Yes he is a bit odd, but at least his cock-ups show he's human. Asked in an interview about his bacon-gate incident, he simply answered: 'I was just hungry'. Honest, and for me anyway, very relatable.
So here's a theory for you: Ed Miliband is Britain personified. As much as Nigel Farage likes to be seen as the man of the people, I hope for all our sakes that he is not. On the other hand, Miliband is descended from Jewish immigrants, a product of the diverse melting pot that has come to define Britain over the last one hundred years. Like Britain he is seen as a bit eccentric and potentially misunderstood. Just as most countries in crisis would probably prefer help from someone perceived to be bigger and better such as America, many people would prefer Ed's brother David to lead the charge. In this scenario, Britain is just like Ed; desperately claiming his effectiveness, whilst others look on at his shortfalls with scepticism.
Despite this piece sounding like one which promotes the increasingly presidential nature of UK elections, I am in fact attempting to do the opposite. Simply put, it is parties and policies that are of the greatest importance. If you believe in what the Torys, or the Greens, or any other of the parties are saying, then bloomin' well vote for them. Equally, if you associate with Labour's policies and ethos then don't be put off by the gaff-prone Labour leader: I think he's alright.
Originally posted on www.darrow.org.uk