So what if people think Ed Miliband is weird? Leadership is not a popularity contest

Qualities that people like at school can contrast dramatically with qualities that deem them fit to run the country

Share

What qualities do we want in leaders? It’s a tough question. But one of the things we absolutely do not want, apparently, is “weirdness.” The ‘Ed Miliband is weird’ poll posits it as an insurmountable problem that Miliband is perceived as “weird” and “likely to have been bullied at school.”

Miliband has always been dismissed as “weird,” and “geeky” so it’s hardly a new attack. But the implication coming from the likes of Paul Staines, and the Mail, among others, is that being “weird” is a terrible weakness. This line of attack might seem tempting, especially to the vindictive. It could work. But it could also backfire on the Tories.

For it to work, David Cameron would have to be everyone’s idea of an ordinary bloke. Buzzfeed illustrated their coverage of the poll with a Grant Shapps tweet: “I’m the millionaire son of a Marxist, who’s spent my whole life in political jobs. That’s why I understand ordinary people.” That’s a fair accusation, but Cameron got his first job because a royal equerry put in a good word for him, and his second on the recommendation of his mother-in-law Lady Aston. Do the Tories really want to pull at that thread? 

And qualities that make somebody “popular at school” can contrast dramatically with qualities that deem them fit to run the country. According to the poll, Miliband is seen as most likely to have been “bullied” - but also as most hard-working.

To see the antithesis of Miliband the Geek, we needn’t look far – our tellies are perpetually blessed these days with the delightful countenance of Nigel Farage. Farage is an ordinary bloke because he drinks pints. Farage isn’t part of the political class, man! (Even though, by definition, he literally is.) Farage gets all the good adjectives. “Charming.” “Likeable.” “Normal.”

So what of their politics? Well, let’s compare: Miliband was campaigning for a living wage, back when the notion of such a thing was sneered at, if uttered publicly at all. Now the campaign for the living wage is a credible, cross-party campaign.

Meanwhile, Farage’s party, in a manifesto Farage helped launch, then claimed he hadn’t read, advocated scrapping maternity rights and all equalities legislation. 

At the Labour conference, Miliband announced an energy price freeze, because in a recession, people struggle with heating bills. It was shouted down by the country’s biggest papers – not to mention energy companies. Tories howled with laughter, before desperately coming up with some attempt at a consumer-friendly energy policy themselves, because, unsurprisingly, Miliband’s freeze was popular.

At the Ukip spring conference, the booked comedian made a series of jokes about Asians, Muslims, and Poles. Our cheeky, pint-downing mate Nigel defended the jokes, because they were “national stereotypes, not racial.”

Geeky Miliband stood up to Murdoch over phone-hacking while loveable Boris Johnson dismissed the whole thing as “codswallop.” On key moral issues like marriage equality, and the Macphearson report, Boris Johnson’s comments seem to start off in support of inequality; taking the side of what is "normal" not what is right. Of course, like all likeable, normal people, he does listen to public opinion, but only once each argument has been won by others.

So perhaps Miliband is a little weird. So what? Being “normal” and using “common sense” is not leadership. Leadership is not cow-towing to power then changing your story to cover yourself. Leadership is not a popularity contest. It is standing up for what’s right, even when it’s tough. And after all, it’s easy to avoid “weirdness” if you have no character – or conscience.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick