Thursday, 30 September 2010

Red Ed?

I thought it best to let the soap opera run its course (as if) before thinking about where the election of Ed Miliband leaves me. Apparently it leaves the Tories weak with laughter. The BBC told me that one, chummily reporting as fact the prevailing view that Labour have lost their best chance to bounce back by rejecting the elder Miliband. Ed might be a nice guy, but he's naive, leftish, in the pocket of the unions and wholly unknown to the electorate.

For those of us interested in the outcome, the effect of the press, condescendingly nice, has been unsettling. Suddenly, the last port in the austerity storm looks a bit feeble. We Liberals are used to this. Voters may have liked the Liberal Democrats, they might even have preferred them over the others, but they wouldn't like to actually give them power. Like allowing Brian Clough to become England manager, it's best left in the 'what if?' category. As a paranoid Liberal, every day saw the little dig designed to keep us down, the broadsheets joining in the tabloid game of keeping up the sterotype. We were simply too nice, well meaning and do goody to be trusted with anything but a few councils.

Now Labour are going to get the treatment. Murdoch and his ilk will build up David Miliband, praise the work of Blairite ministers and express regret that their day has passed. The BBC, which has so much influence over how many of us think, because we think it strives to be impartial, will report the news we don't read. It will tell us what the papers say. It will make us think about the origins of smoke. It will worry us.

Those of you familiar with Michael Haneke's Funny Games will know that the premise of the film is that violence is violence whether its real or simply portrayal. The audience is seeing what happens, knowing its not real but being confronted with the idea that it perhaps doesn't matter that its not real. The reporting of something becomes as powerful as the thing itself.

So, too, with Ed Miliband. The accepted truth becomes fact whether it is or not. David is the clever one, the leader, the saviour of Labour. Ed was a nice idea who tricked his way, or had someone else trick his way, into first place. We are all unsettled, we liked the idea but do we like the fact? The small group of press barons who claim (when it suits them) to hold the power of government in their grubby hands don't have to attack Ed Miliband, they just have to do what everyone in the media has been doing to the Liberal party for 50 odd years, they just have to sow the seeds of doubt.

Don't be swayed dear Etherons. Ed Miliband is clever and erudite and is trying to be inclusive. David Miliband was pretty similar but he had baggage. His speech at conference wasn't some miracle oration  too late to save the day, it was simply an OK speech from a clever politician who will be deeply missed but who wont be irreplaceable. Hats off to the way he's retained his dignity and made the right move. He'll be back, he'll be helping but Ed is the immediate future and I'm still thinking of jumping ship.

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