Sympathy for Ed, the Rules of Engagement and Ye Olde England

If someone had asked me a week ago, “what would it take to make you feel sorry for Ed Miliband?”, I would not have been able to produce a single plausible scenario in answer to the question.

Red Ed, a name we use innocently, mainly because it sticks, presents a worldview and the classic problem-reaction-solution chain of thought of a statist political brand that irritates and frightens me in equal measure. The irritation is caused by its empty, vacuous nature and crude, cynical appeals to cheap populism. The fear stems from digesting this mood music, for whatever it is, and visualising how Britain would look within a few short years of him taking office.

In the last couple of years I’ve oscilated between the less than certain opinion that Ed might well win in 2015 and then hesitating, believing him to be a pretty lightweight political operator even by current standards. Then there’s the small question of whether the wider establishment, of whom the mainstream media are a usefully idiotic arm, are comfortable with the notion or would much rather Ed appeared on the same page of history as Neil Kinnock.

The Daily Mail’s series of pieces on Ralph Miliband appears to have answered that question rather emphatically, although its potential to backfire is probably limited only by the tendency of most to forget a political story once its natural shelf life has expired. It’s also worth noting that there was nothing particularly new here. Ralph Miliband’s status as a prominent Marxist ‘thinker’ of his time is not a secret, nor has there been any concerted effort over the years to hush it up.

Quotations about English “rabid nationalists” and part of him wanting Britain to lose the war are interesting enough, but then it sounds like the kind of dumb shit a seventeen year old might come out with – oh, wait…

Look, Ed Miliband has already demonstrated with supreme skill that he is capable of being wrong about almost everything for entirely his own reasons. Quite how a newspaper that supported Hitler in the 1930s failed to see the irony of its position is beyond me. Exactly what the ultimate aim of it was remains equally elusive. Was everyone supposed to panic, fearful of a prolonged spell in the gulag and resolve to vote Tory next time? And if so, why?

There are rules of engagment in political argument around the nature and scope of the material you use to criticise your opponent. In an age where the dividing lines are merely tribal rather then ideological, one would expect, if anything, that this unwritten code would be adhered to more closely. I mean, it’s not like the major parties in their current form disagree over anything fundamental or critical, is it? We’re talking, at the absolute top end, of slightly more or slightly less, barely distinguishable shades of beige here.

Personal attacks on those you disagree with, or in this case their family, are likely only to make you look like a complete bellend, attracting sympathy for your opponents in the process. Any Tories tempted to defend much beyond the Mail’s legal right to print what they did would do well to bear this in mind. And if you’re only capable of being pleasant to those who agree with you, then political or philosophical discussion of any kind is probably not your thing, irrespective of tribal allegiance.

Finally, an aspect of this story that few I’m yet to see anyone touch upon is the socially conservative one, that of an era which never quite existed. Part of the desired reaction here would appear to be dependant on a nostalgic view of good old blighty, where parents could reliably program their unquestioning offspring with personal prejudices, and Britain single-handedly won world wars despite the best efforts of people like Ralph Miliband to sabotage her from within.

We could alternatively believe that since the dawn of time, young people have rebelled against and disagreed with their parents in various forms, that Ed’s worldview is much closer to the social democracy his father claimed to despise than it is to pure Marxism and, while totally respecting our war dead, 20 million Russians, who themselves perished for the tragic political vision favoured by Ralph Miliband, had an awful lot to do with the outcome of World War 2.

But then there’s a picture of ‘ye Olde England’ just crying out to be painted, so why let the facts get in the way?

I’m sure this thing will wear off soon enough, certainly long before any thoughts of ‘sympathy votes’ cross my mind at the next election. Take it easy.

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