I saw photos in the Daily Mail over the weekend of defeated Labour hopeful Ed Miliband smiling with his family. Finally, the politics had been stripped away, the bacon sandwich gaffes gone, the “Hell Yes” jibes forgotten and even the infamous Ed Stone banished for all time.
I saw a man who had suffered vitriolic attack after vitriolic attack. A man who I vehemently disagreed with on a political level, but a good person, undeserving of the bile flung at him. There was something very American about this election – where the cornerstone of every bid is negativity – something that is profoundly un-British.
I saw someone who was standing up for what he believed in. Now, I’m not quite sure what that was – I think one of Labour’s biggest failures was that they were unclear on what, and who they were trying to attract – but again, the politics of it is irrelevant. His seemingly sturdy stance on ruling out an alliance with the Scottish National Party was also commendable. He went so far that had he backtracked in order to gain power he would have been an outright liar; something I think Miliband tried valiantly, if unsuccessfully to achieve.
I saw a man who fought an election with dignity, and to be attacked without relent for who he was, and not what he stood for was wrong. Our country is one of the world’s most proficient in the art of mocking, and long may that continue, but as the election wore on, the smokescreen of satire became increasingly transparent, it was no longer pure comedy.
I saw a man who also got things wrong. His unerring, robust defence of Blair and Brown’s premiership on the subject of overspending was a poor move. When the crunch comes, taking a left jab instead of risking a more punishing right hook is sometimes just common sense.
I saw what a nasty place our politics has become. While the Right obsessed over Miliband, the Left spewed hate over Nigel Farage. Neither side were at all justified in their actions. When all is said and done they are real people with real families. Yes, by standing for public office you throw yourself into the cauldron of scrutiny, but I am not sure what political capital can be gained by such personal abuse. Both wing’s willingness to partake in such methods make them equally culpable, it is not a matter of who was worse, but I would hope that such unpalatable tactics are never indulged in on these shores again. Of course, if a party tries to go down such a route by all means they are entitled to. But perhaps the opposition shouldn’t fight fire with fire, but bring the hosepipe out instead.
I saw the mistakes I made as well. Too often I criticised Miliband for being Miliband, when there would have been more weight attacking him as the leader of Labour – it’s not like it would have been difficult. To the credit of the UK Independence Party, the abuse they suffered did not lead them to be similarly vile to their opponents. And Farage also commented on multiple occasions that the media’s assault on Miliband was unjust.
I saw the #Milifandom. The army of teenage girls who switched their attention away from Niall and Harry, if only briefly. Naive and keen on Labour’s policies, probably; but they too touched on the unfair treatment Miliband received, and in their own way tried to deal with it.
I saw someone who, deep down, I think is a good person. And whatever he does next, whether it be continuing to serve as a Member of Parliament for Doncaster North following the five years he has just been elected for, or whether he finds enjoyment in a life away from politics, I hope he finds happiness. I truly do.