Ed Miliband has been quick to defend himself against charges from trade union leaders that he has set the Labour Party on a path towards “destruction” and “certain election defeat”. I have nothing to to say about the politics, save that Miliband Minor has no choice but to face down Len McCluskey and his colleagues, who cannot be allowed to dictate party policy.
What interests me is Miliband’s presentation of the counter argument. Take, for example, the interview broadcast today by the BBC. Filling most of the frame is your typical politician in a suit, making the right noises, and anxious to get through the interview without being forced to say anything of substance. In other words, a bog standard soundbite interview.
Now look at the photograph on the desk behind Miliband, which was no doubt strategically placed there by PR advisors armed with rulers and protractors. That is no typical family photo, designed to remind an overworked politician what his wife and children look like, and ward off any loss of the will to live. In the picture, Miliband is wearing a suit, and the shot is composed so as to portray a scene of respectable bourgeois domesticity. Now I’m sure that Justine Thornton is a lovely woman, and the Microbands delightful creatures. But the scene is manufactured, and the result tacky in comparison with the efforts of former PR turned prime minister David Cameron.
Miliband has form when it comes to manipulated television interviews, and I have my doubts about this latest effort. But I have no desire to damn the BBC journalists responsible. Politicians routinely pressure journalists into presenting them in their best, stage-managed light, and there has to be give and take between them. Non-cooperation from either side simply makes life difficult for all concerned: politicians, journalists and the media-consuming general public.
In this case, however, I would have refused to play ball with Miliband and his spindoctors, and instead framed the camera shot to focus in on Miliband alone. One cannot totally avoid this kind of PR bullshit, but there have to be limits.