Not from central casting but valuing principle over posturing

Ed Miliband made a speech yesterday setting out the standards against which he will ask to be judged as Prime Minister. Here is an extract:

“When people say ‘you’re all the same, you’re in it for yourself, you don’t care about my life’, they are talking about us: the politicians. Millions of people think that for us, it actually is all about us, that we are in it for ourselves, for our own success, not the country’s.

“They believe we value posturing more than principle, good photos or soundbites more than a decent policy, image more than ideas. Unless we stand up now and say that we want to offer people something different, more and more will simply turn away. And if we allow that to continue to happen, we will also rob people of the debate they deserve, about the things that matter.

“David Cameron is a very sophisticated and successful exponent of an image-based politics. He made his name as Leader of the Opposition for some fantastic photos, like hanging out with huskies in the Arctic Circle.

“Even my biggest supporters would say I haven’t matched him on that. It is not what I care most about. And it’s not where my talents lie —as you may have noticed.

“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me.

“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op.”

“If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.

“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.

“Here’s what I think matters. The leadership you need and the leadership this country needs is one that has big ideas to change things, with the sense of principle needed to stick to those beliefs and ideas even when it is hard, and with the decency and empathy to reach out to people from all backgrounds, all walks of life.

“For me, those qualities are the gold standard for what a modern leader should offer. I will sometimes fall short of that gold standard. But it is what I aspire to.

“I know the qualities I have talked about don’t just matter to me. They matter to you. They are the bedrock of this party.

“Let’s show people that we have new ideas to address the problems the country faces, that we seek to offer principles that prove that politics can be about more than what is expedient and convenient, that we believe decency and empathy are crucial values not just for our communities but for our country.”

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