There are numerous instances of people saying in life that when they meet their celebrity idol that they seemed smaller or shorter in real life than they did on TV. The media has a way of distorting our perceptions and though Ed Miliband did in fact look a bit slimmer in real life than he does on the television I must admit that his ‘people time’ visit to my home town of Plymouth did change my perceptions of him.
The media image of an awkward, sometimes bumbling man was offset by the articulate, engaging, charismatic and intelligent manner of Mr Miliband who answered the questions the audience put forward to him with confidence and passion. Indeed it was refreshing to see this side of the opposition leader and it felt as though he was in his element in the real politics of public speaking in front of a trying audience who were trying to get honest answers to tough questions about the economy, social care, public finances and what vision he has for Great Britain.
One man saw fit to take this chance to heckle Mr Miliband and even bring up the issue of his brother and how David should have been leading the party. The awkward silence and murmurs in the room didn’t seem to put Miliband off who waited for the man to finish his tirade and then relax the atmosphere with a slightly humorous comment and then took on the man with sincerity yet firmness in his views. I felt as though I was seeing the real Miliband in this session, the man behind the camera and being a Labour party member it was comforting to see some strength in our party leader.
I myself studied International Relations at university and I wanted to pick Miliband’s brain about foreign affairs, specifically what he thought about the issue with Saudi Arabia and the lowering of the flag at half-mast for the recently deceased Saudi King. The response I got was both intelligent and aware of past events within the Labour party. Compared to David Cameron’s to be quite frank bumbling reply to a young person about the Saudi issue Mr Miliband managed to walk the fine line between highlighting the importance of an important ally in the region where geo-strategic and geo-religious issues are of prime concern to our national interest and recognising the need to respect human rights and promote values that are dear to our country.
He didn’t set out for me a macro foreign policy vision of a future Labour government and there was no equivalent of a Blair Chicago speech setting out a new ethical and humanitarian based foreign policy. The reply though recognised that the wars and conflicts we have been fighting so far this century have been affairs which have lacked strategic and political considerations and the thinking through of exit strategies and why we are fighting the wars in the first place. Mr Miliband’s talking through of political ends, strategic ways and armed force means managed to soothe the concerns of an IR graduate who quite frankly looks at disbelief at the ineptitude and ill thought through nature of the conflicts this century.
Mr Miliband plays best when he is engaging with people and large audiences. Speaking to their concerns and addressing their issues directly. He manages to display a real sense of empathy and determination to solve the issues that are affecting too many people in this country. Letting Miliband be Miliband is the way forward for the Labour party. Playing David Cameron’s media savvy game is ill-suited to the Labour leaders personality and I do believe that more and more people just aren’t believing the oft-repeated sound bites and media showmanship that the Prime Minister throws at us.
We don’t need any more media personalities. X Factor, The Voice and Eastenders do that for us already. What we need is personal conviction, intelligence and emphatic understanding from our top leader and based on what I saw the other week, Mr Miliband may just be the man to fill that slot.
By Connor Smart, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.