A crucial reminder to anyone who may at some stage consider running for Prime Minister: don’t have sex. No, seriously. This is very important. Your political ardour and proficient knowledge of advanced economic theory mean nothing if you have – at any point – slept with anyone other than your spouse. No flirting, no casual dating, and don’t even think about starting an actual relationship unless it involves a lifelong commitment and exchange of vows. Quite how you are meant to make it to the happiest day of your life without at least the whisper of dinner for two isn’t quite clear, but hey, you’re the one who wants to run the country one day. Make it happen.
Poor Ed Miliband wasn’t given this handy advice, and made the mistake of persuading an impressive roster of at least five (yes, I know) smart, successful women to be his girlfriend (not all at the same time). Even worse, some of these women had mutual friends and similar interests. One or two may even have slept with other men before him. As if the story couldn’t get any more sordid, he actually met his future wife Justine at a dinner party hosted by one of these lovers. And all this before he betrayed his own brother. It’s like the plot of a Jilly Cooper novel, with Ed the caddish young rogue shagging his way through Westminster.
No wonder, then, that with just weeks to go until the general election, a national newspaper decided to expose this shocking story on their front page. Forget the policies, voters, a politician has a past.
Does someone’s personal life give an indication as to what they are like professionally, and point to the sort of political leader they could be? To a certain extent, of course. But reporting Miliband’s bland love life as if it falls into that category is actually rather sweet, or rather it would be if it wasn’t for the likelihood that rather murkier political aims were the goal.
Frankly, the idea that there is a scandal here is laughable. In fact, the whole thing is all quite reassuringly ordinary. Far from being some kind of swashbuckling lothario, leaving a trail of knickers and broken hearts in his wake, Miliband seems to have had an utterly conventional dating history, with some pretty terrific women. If anything, his stock has gone up. Stephanie Flanders fancied him? Christ, there must be something we’re missing about this one. Since he isn’t applying for a job where celibacy is a prerequisite, his ability and desire to form functional adult relationships would seem to be something of a bonus.
But there is, perhaps, one concerning element to this ridiculous saga, it's yet another attack on a politician for doing something completely standard – see also: eating a sandwich, eating a hot dog, walking to a work.
This incessant mocking not only drowns out talk of the actual issues which should be occupying current discourse, but actively turns off anyone remotely normal, with a normal past, from entering politics. Because who in their right mind would ever choose a career where even the most banal of activities can find you at the centre of a jeering media storm? It means that current politics tends to appeal to a particular kind of fiercely ambitious and hard-nosed, steely person, who can withstand intimate and irrelevant details of their private lives being splashed across front pages. The qualities you need to survive in Westminster? Sure. The qualities you need to successfully run a country? Debatable.
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