The political elite should represent different lifestyles

This blogger thinks that Ed Miliband should have stood proud in his decision to live out of wedlock.

This blogger thinks that Ed Miliband should have stood proud in his decision to live out of wedlock. Do you agree?

Today Ed Miliband became a husband. What a waste, I mourn, and for reasons other than his geek bachelor charm. I toyed with the idea it was my duty to stop it, the ceremony being only a bus ride from my house.

One last-ditch race to the hotel (not a church, at least . . . thank God) and things could have been so different, as the registrar asked if anyone "knew a reason" why they shouldn't wed. "Yes me!" I should have cried. "Because you don't need to, because you said you didn't want to, and because there are many of your electorate who feel the same."

When the newly elected Ed became the first British party leader to live with his family outside of marriage, he suddenly became a rather more attractive catch. In a refreshing demonstration of progression and free thought, Ed and Justine were swapping matrimony for happy cohabitation and ignoring the multiple media outlets that criticised them for the act.

Ed turned down Christine Bleakley's kind offer of proposing to his partner live on air, and to the traditionalists it was tacitly explained that commitment didn't come with a piece of paper and all women weren't pining for a diamond ring. It was all going so well – until they got engaged.

Faced with enough public scrutiny, two adults who had been sharing their lives with a home and children were now making the "real" commitment of institutionalism and legal documentation. For me, a love affair that had started so promisingly was quickly turning sour. Under the spotlight of the right-wing press, before Ed knew it, the personal had become the political. Far from being the time to rush to the altar, this was the time to stand proud.

Marriage is a valid option in life, but there are several fine alternatives, as Miliband had the chance to show. A woman doesn't need to have her man's baby to prove she loves him, and he doesn't need to get down on one knee.

There are different models of relationships in modern Britain, a range of choices to be had, and these are not things to be ashamed of, not values to brush quietly to one side. They are, rather, lifestyles that vast portions of the citizenry choose daily, and choices the political elite should have the strength to represent. In saying "I do" to his partner today, Ed looked at the electorate and said: "I don't."

Frances Ryan is a freelance writer and political researcher at the University of Nottingham.

Frances Ryan is a journalist and political researcher. She writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman, and others on disability, feminism, and most areas of equality you throw at her. She has a doctorate in inequality in education. Her website is here.

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The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org