Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Brothers

- I do vaguely remember a television series with this name, from the 70's, didn't it have something to do with haulage? That may be apt, because the Labour Party's fight back might be a bit of a long haul, given the Tory/LibDem plans to exclude the possibility of a General Election before 2015. But the Party has made a start this week, choosing its new leader. And as I said in an earlier blog, I voted for Ed, although David was my second choice, I guess I was a fan of "The Brothers", whichever way the voting went.

I don't usually comment on national political matters unless they are of relevance to the residents in my ward, or particular to my region, but occasionally some stories come along where I feel I ought perhaps to offer my few pennyworth.

This is such a time.

A few things strike me about the announcement that following Ed Miliband's election to leader, older brother David has decided not to seek office in the Shadow Cabinet.

I think it is a real shame and a loss to the Labour Party and ultimately the country that David has taken this course of action. But I quite understand why. In many ways it would be impossible for them to work together, not because they are not perfectly capable of it,  but because the media and political observers, would always be looking for an angle, ratcheting up any political disagreements, using the "brothers" dimension.

So if David wanted to propose a particular course of action or policy that was in any way controversial, Ed would be accused of either nepotism if he supported it (is it still called nepotism if it is fraternal?), or the media would point to brotherly disunity if he did not. It would also make it difficult for David to be critical of any of Ed's proposals. It is tough enough having to manage collective shadow/cabinet responsibilities without this extra dimension.  I don't see how they would be able to manage this.

I recall Alastair Campbell resigning from his job at number 10 when he "became the story", something very similar would happen here.

I think the line that pundits are taking over this has been very unfortunate. The ultimate reasoning that one must apply from the whole coverage of the leadership campaign in respect of these two being brothers, that one has usurped the other's crown, that it must be difficult for their Mum (which of course it must be) is that siblings should not follow each other into politics.

In centuries gone by, in the upper classes, it was traditional for each son to follow a different career, one would inherit the title and the land, one perhaps join the army, one go into the church. We ought to have left all that behind us a long time ago, there is no earthly reason why siblings or partners should not share the same career hopes, but it would seem that only one should try to make it to the top in politics. Otherwise your relationship with your sibling or partner that you have been in competition with, becomes the story.

Is this what we want? That people should be forced to sacrifice their own passions and aspirations because our media are incapable of seeing further than the family rivalry? I think it is a terrible shame.

1 comment:

paula said...

I have to say I also feel it is a shame if people who are related to each other, whether they be brothers or father and son, or a married couple or whatever feel that if one of them is engaged in politics the other can't be because of comment etc.

Obviously nepotism is wrong but in my experience the fact that people who are related are both or all involved in politics is because they share similar interests. It is then up to the voters (whether they be the internal selectorate or the external electorate) as to whether people actually succeed.

If we were to take the view that once one family member is involved and/or high profile that rules others out then we would of course be mainly discriminating against women. It is still the case where relatives are concerned that it tends to be the man that gets involved first, for whatever reason.

The other thing I have a major problem with when it comes to coverage of politics (and in particular conferences) is the constant focus on reactions of key people. It must be awful to be a key figure in the hall for a Leaders speech knowing that the camera is on you looking for any unfortunate expression (unless of course you are trying to signal something in which case why not come out and say it?)

Back to the topic of relatives. I used to get fairly abusive comments on my own blog at times about Liverpool Lib Dem Councillors being related to each other. This has stopped and I am sure that its partly because of concentration on the Milliband brothers and to a lesser extent the Eagle twins and the Ed Ball/Yvette Cooper partnership.