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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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.