Ed Miliband was caught grimacing by a photographer as he ate a bacon sandwich in the run up to the recent local and European elections. The photograph – which found its way across the British press – was a blow to this Harvard-educated leader. Morecambe resident Bob Hopkinson, 47, said of Miliband: “If he can’t even eat a sandwich properly, how will this man run the country?” Yet this is a man who plans to radically reform the link between wealth and wage growth in the British economy. Miliband, while in office as secretary of state for energy and climate change, also secured the Copenhagen global carbon reduction agreement amongst his achievements.
“Unpriministerial”, “weak”, and “out of touch” were accusations made in the wake of the bacon sandwich incident. Despite the fact that he is a lifetime anti-apartheid campaigner and that he recently set out detailed proposals to break up the market-share of the UK financial sector, Miliband got a short shrift as a result of his gastronomic gaffe. Further comparisons were made with Aardman animations’ plasticine character Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, yet the youngest ever Labour leader prevented calamitous western intervention in the Syrian Civil War only last year, and Miliband has passed the biggest reform of his party’s relationship with trade unions in its history.
The London Evening Standard noted how “butter could be seen oozing” from the sandwich of the man who introduced tax credits for the low paid and who the Daily Telegraph declared one of the few “saints” after the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal. The London Evening Standard also magnified charges against the Labour leader, who recently took part in a 48-hour street campaign to find out how people are struggling to keep up with the cost of living in south-west England. The Labour leader estimated his weekly shopping bill was £3.66 short of the average price, and subsequently, of course, questions were asked over whether the politician is truly fit for government – a man who has already devised a long-term plan to avert potential market crises by restoring stability through regulation in key industries.
Despite plans to invest in sciences, create apprenticeships for graduates, and cut student tuition fees, when I asked second-year physics student Charlotte Maddow whether Ed Miliband was a credible vote, she replied that she will likely vote against Mr Miliband because of buttygate. “He comes across as awkward,” Maddow clarified, adding that she is likely to “go for Cameron” instead – the prime minister who has spent his professional life working in PR and who pledges to cut housing benefits for under-25s.
“The electorate want effective control over the UK’s nuclear weapons stock in the hands of someone they could imagine meeting in a pub,” explained Chris Mori from TheyGov. “Miliband’s calm and inquisitive demeanour is a massive turnoff,” added Paul Ashcroft from the Institute for Studies. “People want a ‘character’ in charge responsible for major UK trade agreements… it’s far easier to imagine the Eton-educated London Mayor with gangster connections that got caught on a zipline waving a Great Britain flag during the Olympic Games at the G8.”
The sandwich incident came as Miliband presided over impressive election results for Labour who gained an additional 330 councillors nationally, winning easily in London and England’s other major cities. In politics it seems that it’s not whether you win or lose, just how you lay the blame – voters seem more concerned with Miliband’s demeanour rather than comparing policies between the Labour leader and prime minister David Cameron.