Thursday, 26 August 2010

A hopeless plea for the media to stop turning the LP leadership contest into a Soap

The press and broadcasters are at their games again - trying to make news rather than report it. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say continuing their relentless work in turning serious politics into Soap.

The Milliband brothers, of course, are made for Soap. Two good-looking brothers, battling it out to be on the higher step towards a country’s premiership. (Can’t you hear the score working through its chord sequence towards a trumpeting climax?)

According to the press there are growing signs of tension between the Milliband brothers. Translating this into real-speak, we might say, policy difference. But where have commentators been living? Right from the start there has been a difference of policy between the brothers; not a difference on what to achieve but on the strategy by which to achieve it. Ed argues that we must connect with grass root membership and voters, whom, he argues we ignored in the Blair years. David argues that we must continue to attract the better-off middle classes but must also not ignore our grass roots.

That many ‘traditional’ Labour voters felt alienated is without doubt; that Labour must attract middle-class voters if its to regain power is equally without doubt. How best to resolve these issues is the Millibands’ nuanced arguments - not family feud.

When they’re not stoking the flames of imagined tension, the media like to define this difference as Brownite v Blairite . . . nothing like fighting old battles, is there? And stories of Brownite v Blairite or family feuds are simple to understand . . . and simple to tell. Headlines and soundbites.

The two brothers (with the other candidates) are arguing their cases with great dignity and poise. Let’s understand how galling this must be for commentators, greedy to expose some split, in their own self-centred interest. Let’s also take on board the arguments that are being made and make our own minds up.

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