Ed Miliband is getting lots of stick for his speech, suggesting he’s damning photo ops despite being a culprit. Having read his speech I don’t think that’s what he is doing at all, and even if he were, would he ever have got to his position were he not guilty of an occasional photo opportunity?
They pervade every level of politics. Even in local government, where I’ve found myself having my photo taken with a man in a nappy to posing with balloons and a sign (probably my last photo op ever, since I won’t be in any council ones any more and doubt I’ll be allowed in any party ones either).
He accepts that photo op and soundbite are pervasive. But also argue that there should be more to politics.
The middle of his speech contains the following passage:
so often the terms of trade of politics—the way it is discussed and rated— has become about the manufactured, the polished, the presentational.
Politics is played out as showbiz, a game, who is up and who is down.
Rather than the best chance a lot of people have to change their lives.
That last line, for me, is the killer. Do I think Ed Miliband has the right ideas or politics? No, not really. But do I agree with him on that point? Yes, absolutely.
The silly focus on how photogenic he is (or isn’t), doesn’t belittle him, it belittles politics, which should be about a battle of ideas and how they can be practically applied to improve people’s lives.
I’ve been guilty, I know, of finding fun in Miliband photos. But equally I’ve always believed that politics should be better, and more about ideas. I highlighted the speech by Cllr Jones at the last council meeting which continues to intrigue me, because—I think—it stuck out as a speech that was ultimately about how politics can affect people’s lives and, ultimately, invited disagreement and argument. Too often political speeches seem to be written as if they are the only logical viewpoint, negating the possibility that perfectly sensible people can have opposing opinions.
But politics, those opposing opinions, are why people sit in council chambers or in Parliament. It would be interesting to see if, when the current trolling of Ed Miliband with his past photo ops ends, we might be able to move on and discuss political ideas. I’m confident the nation is intelligent enough, if the media and politicians can rise to that level.