Labour leader Ed Miliband has today made a bold speech in London aimed at beating back the criticism he has received in recent months attacking his “Wallace” image.
Mr. Miliband used the speech to admit that image is “not one of [his] strong points”, and congratulated David Cameron for looking like a “sophisticated” politician.
The leader of the opposition also mentioned that politics today is a politics of “showbiz, a game about who is up, and who is down.”
Sadly, he is right. We have seen it for a number of years in the USA, where personality politics is firmly grounded in its system. Over the pond, the use of Televised Debates has been integral to the election campaigns since the times of JFK, and the use of TV advertisements have made image a crucial factor in who wins and who loses the elections.
Of course, this is partly because of the press; a picture speaks a thousand words as they say, and getting a photo-op of a party leader making a meal of a bacon sandwich is better than any columnist could write.
I am not a Labour supporter as such, but Miliband’s speech is highly admirable and genuine. He made jokes at his own image, saying that “it’s not just that I haven’t tried…I have a team who work for me on [image], and believe me they do their best.” The audience laughed, he laughed – it was a very genuine speech.
Ironically, although he states that image is “not where [his] talents are”, he does a very good job at pausing at the correct moments, and raising his voice on cue. Miliband is a vey competent leader, and if his party accept that he is intelligent, is driven, and makes a solid plan for next May, they have to accept he is not always going to be the best-looking chap.
Politics is now a battle of who gets more photo-ops hugging huskies, but that is how it has been for a while. We all judge people. You may not want to admit it, but our first impressions are made from how someone looks. That is no fault of our own, just our way of interpreting the world and making connections.
Ed Miliband did a very good thing today by challenging the current climate in politics. Thankfully, he does not say he will fight it, rather he admits he will never be good at it. If he sticks to his plan of making “big ideas”, he does stand with a chance.
He finished by saying: “If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me. It’s the other guy. If you want the politician who thinks a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me, because I don’t. I believe that people quite like somebody to stand up and say: ‘there is more to politics than the photo-op’.”
Labour will hope he is right.