Cynicism is perhaps the only common emotion that people feel towards politics these days. Of course there are still those of us who join political parties and watch current affairs programmes religiously but we are certainly the minority. We all know the phrases of the disillusioned ‘They’re all the same’ ‘We don’t have a real choice’. We are all too aware of these expressions and the effect that spin and PR have had on the public’s opinion of politicians but after the leader of the opposition’s speech a few days ago this may have begun to change.
Ed Miliband made a speech that many would have thought inconceivable a year ago – he faced up to the short comings of his performance in the media. Many have regretted Miliband’s appointment as leader believing that his lack of charisma and a public persona would leave him unable to make Labour Party’s case for government effectively. And seeing as Labour has failed to keep a steady lead in the poles who can blame them?
The Tories have been having a field day poking fun at Miliband ever since he become the Labour leader and perhaps when his more camera friendly brother David lost the leadership contest Cameron believed this would set him up for a majority come the election in 2015. However, Miliband set about turning Cameron’s deadliest weapon against him – his public image.
Recently Image has ruled in politics but Miliband plans to change this; he admitted that he wasn’t from ‘central casting’ and if you wanted someone who looks good in photos then pick ‘the other guy’, he positioned himself as substance over style. If this plays off then Cameron could find himself in hot water, if Miliband wants to make it a decision between content or charisma, an election between image and integrity then I think that Cameron will be in trouble.
You can say what you like about Ed (many have) but he does seem to stand for something, the Labour party have not been short of policy ideas over the last 12 months, and by playing the underdog and shifting the focus from PR to policy Miliband is playing to his strengths – this is ground on which is can really take on Cameron. Miliband is quite happy to talk about what he wants to see change in society on a philosophical level, he believes in fairness and inequality, all that Dave seems to stand for is ‘fixing the economy’ at whatever cost. I really have no idea what Cameron stands for. Peter Hitchens described him as a PR man who has stumbled into politics; this seems to be a pretty accurate to me. He seems to be sympathetic towards Thatcher’s values but as Miliband quite rightly pointed out one minute he is hugging huskies the next he is getting rid of all the green crap. His constant battle to appease his backbenchers over Europe makes one really wonder what he thinks of the EU.
These criticisms could not have come at a rougher time for the PM, the appointment of more women to the cabinet and the promotions of women ministers stinks of tokenism – it appears an attempt to seem principled may have once again backfired. He seems to be in a constant battle to appease everyone, but we now that this isn’t what makes a strong leader, Cameron must make the party and the public trust his judgement and try and lead them forward if he is to win their hearts and minds. I believe that his premiership is been nothing of this short, he is opportunistic and cynical in his approach to leading and this has put many off. One minute he is defending Gary Barlow for tax avoidance and the next minute condemning Jimmy Carr for the same offence – these contradictions put his integrity into question.
Miliband showed honesty and integrity in his speech. He showed that it wasn’t the slick PR of politics that was his strong point but what he believes in – his values. The willingness to let what really drives his politics be the focus of his leadership and not let his lack of public persona dominate how the public views him. This was the first time I have seen him try and dictate the agenda rather than it dictate him, his reactionary politics has often been good but letting others react to him will give him the initiative.
If Miliband can embrace his PR shortcoming and become the ‘Wallace of Westminister’ then the British public may take to him as much as they have taken to the Nick Park’s plasticine people. If he is able to counter Cameron’s empty to rhetoric with answers of substance that people can really connect with then perhaps the next election may not be as close as many are predicting.