Justine Miliband has given an interview to the BBC, a sort of ‘back my husband, my hero’ contribution to the Labour election campaign. She starts by talking about the pressures on the family and how ‘being a working mother’, she hasn’t really had a chance to think about what it would be like for the family with Ed in Downing Street.
‘I’ve thought about this and I think it’s going to get worse, I think over the next couple of months it’s going to get really vicious, really personal, but I’m totally up for this fight and I’ve thought about the reason why and the reason is because I think this goes way beyond Ed as an individual, I think it’s about whether decency and principle count for something in political life, wherever you are on the political spectrum, and so it’s not just about Ed, but it’s about every single politician who tries to do the right thing, despite the personal attacks and I think it’s incredibly important that this country, political life in this country stays open to decent, principled people, so if you ask me why I’m up for a fight, I’m fighting not only for Ed, but I’m fighting for a principle of decency in public life.’
She uses Ed Miliband standing up to Murdoch as a way of explaining that her husband is one of the ‘decent principled people’. She then goes onto describe her own nerves at the Labour leader intervening so directly in the row over phone hacking in 2011. Her memory of the event isn’t quite right, though, as she says her husband called for Murdoch to resign, when it was in fact Rebekah Brooks he suggested should resign. This suggests that she hasn’t been intensively-trained by a cadre of spin doctors, which is for the best: indeed, she seems rather wary of the questions.
It’s a way of giving Miliband, who does not enjoy good ratings as a leader, and who has not managed to convince voters yet, a human edge. Mrs Miliband would be unlikely to do such an interview were her husband in a stronger position. That she has done one at all is telling. But the gentle interview and the sense that unpleasant forces are out to get Miliband may encourage sympathy for the Labour leader as well as suspicion of his opponents.