Miliband is right to meet Romney – but he should call him out on vile dog whistle race politics


When it was confirmed yesterday that Ed Miliband would be meeting Mitt Romney during his trip to see his expensive dressage horse compete in the Olympics the Olympic opening ceremony, it’s fair to say some eyebrows were raised. It’s entirely consistent for Miliband to meet Romney of course, as it was for Ed to meet Francois Hollande back in February. That has paid dividends for the Labour leader (paid in full on the steps of the Élysées Palace yesterday), while the Prime Minister looks duplicitous, happy to meet right wing Romney but unwilling to meet Socialist Hollande. The very best spin you can put on this from Cameron’s perspective is that the US is more important than France.

Not an idea likely to be greeted with enthusiasm in Paris.

So Miliband has managed to score a diplomatic win over Cameron despite all of the advantages of high office that Dave holds. Ed ain’t no statesman yet – not by a long shot – but he may at least have the aptitude for it. It’s harder to say that about Cameron, who despite meeting Romney today (and therefore pissing off Hollande) has already pissed off Romney by fawning over Obama. And for all we know meeting Romney will piss Obama off.

Smooth Dave.

But being statesmanlike isn’t just about keeping everyone happy all of the time. You can’t keep all of those plates spinning forever. Sometimes it’s about standing up to would be allies too.

Today, Ed Miliband (and David Cameron) need to call Mitt Romney out on the vile dog whistle politics carried out by his campaign.

As Political Scrapbook reported this morning, a Romney aide has been trying to spin his London trip as a politician with “Anglo-Saxon” roots reaching out to London in a way that Obama – son of a Kenyan lest we forget – is somehow incapable.

That ringing in your ears? That’s less dog whistle and more dog bullhorn.

And of course it’s nonsense. For starters Barack Obama (despite the inevitable popularity-slippage that offfice brings) is spectacularly popular in Britain (more so than Cameron, Miliband or Clegg). He has British family (including his step-mother), and he’s even a West Ham fan. His address to parliament showed that he understands Britain – a real, modern, complex multi-racial Britain. The real Britain that exists today, rather than the ye olde Britain that Mitt Romney and his advisors seem to have in mind. We may have Old Etonians as our Prime Minister and as Mayor of our Olympic city, but we’re not the one dimensional bunch we might so easily be portrayed as.

No-one knows that more than Ed Miliband. His family history does not scream “Anglo Saxon”. And yet in three years time he could be stood on the steps of Downing Street shaking hands with President Romney. It would be easy and understandable for Ed Miliband – a man so often overcome by caution – to throw caution to the wind and have a pleasant but unremarkble chat with the would be POTUS.

But being a statesman isn’t always about being liked by everyone.

Regardless of what is said, European Social Democrat, banker-bashing son of Marxists Ed Miliband is unlikely to be liked by Mitt Romney. The man who talked of “Predators and Producers” is unlikely to agree on much with the man who brought us “Corporations are people“. So Ed might as well get something useful out of the meeting. Placing a marker for a future Labour government. No to dog whistle politics. No race baiting politics. And no to sucking up to right wing Republican politicians, just because they might be President one day.

And by doing so – he might just help make sure it’s Obama and Miliband, not Cameron and Romney, on those Downing Street steps a few years hence.

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