Critics' focus on the Labour leader's boring love life misses the point of the piece
The Mail account of Ed Miliband’s love life is fantastically dull, especially when set aside that of his rival party leaders in this election. Nick Clegg famously claimed in 2008 to have slept with ‘no more than 30’ women before his marriage, while David Cameron, when asked in 2009 whether he had girlfriends before his wife, replied: ‘Lots’.
Here’s a reminder of a Mail story in 2012 on Cameron’s pre-Sam love life: (I thought since the Mail doesn’t mentioned it today, even as a comparison, I might as well.)
“Cameron was known as a heartbreaker who was so single-minded, he was usually the one to end romantic relationships if he realised girls were unsuitable. […]
“According to one contemporary, […] He liked high-born ones with an artistic side to them.”
And so on. You’ll notice the tone of that piece was a bit more sympathetic, in a ‘boys will be boys’ sort of way. (The tone was maintained even after one of Cameron’s ex-girlfriends took Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia and joined a nunnery.)
But Miliband’s ‘somewhat caddish’ (not to be confused with ‘kaddish’) behaviour is not really what the Mail is trying to highlight. As a colleague said to me this morning: ‘the piece is about class’.
After listing (and emphasising) the jobs and status of Miliband’s friends and girlfriends in the story, most of whom worked in the media or politics, the author remarks:
“What a deliciously small and privileged world! One that is a million miles from the lives of millions of ordinary voters.”
And there, shining out of the piece like a gemstone in a dung-pile, is the point of the Mail’s depressing barrel-scrape today.
Many of the paper’s readers will own a house, say, or have some degree of financial security, but they have no real power in the media or politics. It’s almost too easy to point to an ‘incestuous’ clique of champagne socialists and turn this impotence, (not to say insecurity), against the Right’s political foes – easy, and in the case of the Mail, irresistible.
As with the Tory press calling Miliband a ‘north London elitist’, this is an example of what the Mail accused Miliband of yesterday, (and will again tomorrow): the politics of envy – a bogus class war against a ‘bogus’ class warrior. And this from a paper supporting the party of the rich, led by a PR man for privilege.
So ask yourself: how much contempt must a newspaper have for its readers to think they can be made to envy the love life of Ed Miliband?
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.