Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Politics often adopts a personal dimension: intrigued voters may ask potential representatives about their favourite type of biscuit, or their taste in music, or the perennial question about the price of a bread loaf. These questions act like a Turing test, checking to see if the politician is human or computer. The latest focal point with these trials is perusing around the family kitchen.
Sarah Vine, writing in the Daily Mail, looked at the “forlorn little kitchen” of the Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Ed Miliband and his wife Justine. Ms Vine suggests “they’ve only just managed to clear away the tumbleweed in time for the photo-shoot”, adding:
There’s nothing here that makes me believe that he and Justine are not, in fact, aliens. No evidence of food-stuffs, certainly. Perhaps they get their nourishment from the fruits that grow only in the rarefied atmosphere of the moral high ground.
Justine Miliband is apparently “far too busy sticking to her feminist principles as an environmental lawyer” to undertake home-taking, which Ms Vine chastises. Ms Miliband is then compared to a Vulcan:
The one thing that was totally lacking from her interview, however, was humour. That and any sign of warmth, empathy or fallibility.
Intellectually, I’m certain she understands these concepts. But, like the late Mr Spock, one gets the impression she considers them unnecessary, inconvenient and wholly surplus to requirements.
Peering towards a potential government led by Ed Miliband, Ms Vine pens:
And that is exactly what we will get if Ed wins the election. An austere, self-conscious, self-righteous and, ultimately, hypocritical society of socially engineered equals.
A Britain made in the image of that sad, self-consciously modest Miliband kitchen: bland, functional, humourless, cold and about as much fun to live in as a Communist era housing block in Minsk.
Ms Vine’s article was aggressively personal, insulting Ms Miliband for her “cerebral” nature, suggesting the couple could not be distinguished from aliens, and supposing a humble kitchen would become the model for a whole society. The only way a kitchen would be “Communist-style” is if they broke the oven, and then erased the oven from the house’s history.
Jenni Russell, a Times columnist, said what Ms Vine was the “functional kitchenette” of the Miliband home. This revelation induced an eruption of activity on the Daily Telegraph, which no fewer than 14 articles mentioning Ed Miliband’s “two kitchens”.
Concerns over kitchens have not been aimed solely at Mr Miliband: the Daily Mirror excoriated the Prime Minister David Cameron for not knowing the price of bread — as Mr Cameron owns a bread-maker. The Daily Mail also gave a tour of the No 10 Downing Street kitchen, as Samantha Cameron was hosting a charity event for disabled children in the Prime Minister’s official residence.
This article lacked the abusive acidity of Ms Vine’s screed. On This Week, the author notes she was a “much more nicer person than I am now”, before the enervating and exhausting attacks by newspaper journalists. It takes unrelenting gall to complain about a phenomenon in which you are directly participating.
When politics cannot get much more trivial, two kitchen sinks are thrown in. Ms Miliband has done nothing to warrant such putrid words, which were nothing more than pitiful observations fermented into foul speculations. The vagaries of Mr Miliband’s possible government cannot be extrapolated from his unexceptional kitchenware: it is the thoughts of the Leader of the Opposition that are important, not his furnishings.
Politics should be about the grand combat of ideas, and the discovery of effective policies, not the malignance of politicians and the traducement of their families.