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By Tom Sasse
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Gutter politics harms us all

Gutter politics harms us all
3 min read

Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall accuses the Conservatives of having "crossed the line" with their attacks on Ed Miliband this week.  

The result of the General Election on 7 May will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Britons. Whatever your view - whether you think the economy needs to work for ordinary people or just a few at the top, whether you want Britain to play a leading role in a reformed Europe or pull out and go it alone - the choices we make at this election really matter. 

Yet faced with such important decisions about the future, this week we saw the papers full not of the cut and thrust of proper political debate but of pathetic personal abuse aimed at Ed Miliband. 



Liz Kendall hits out at Tories over 'politics of the gutter'
George Osborne: Of course Miliband is a backstabber
Michael Fallon: Miliband will 'stab UK in back' over Trident
Ed Miliband: Tories should be ashamed of negative campaign
The Knowledge: The diminishing returns of negative campaigning
The House magazine: Fight the Power


Ed is strong enough to look after himself, and has dealt with the smears with a grace and decency they do not deserve. But the abuse he faced this week completely crossed the line. 

I know it’s easy to feel angry at an attack on a friend and ally, as well as the leader of your party. But this issue goes wider than Ed Miliband or Labour. 

I’m angry because I believe our democracy really matters, and slugging politics out in the gutter harms us all.

Real people turn off as politicians from all parties end up being tarred with the same brush. Faith in politics as a force for good is lost and the pool of people willing to get involved becomes ever smaller. I meet so many passionately committed community activists and I often encourage them to consider going into politics themselves. Many don’t understand why I do it, and say they couldn’t put up with the smears, abuse, and exposure of their private lives.   

I know that this kind of nasty politics isn’t limited to one ideology, and that many so-called political strategists will say that refusing to fight dirty leaves you badly exposed. 

But politics isn’t about politicians, or campaigners, or strategists. It’s about how we deal with issues that can help or hurt people. When politics becomes about personal destruction, not national renewal, we all lose. 

We face huge challenges in Britain: an ageing society, global instability, and rapid technological changes that could either serve everyone or only a connected few. 

In the face of these changes, how do we help families trying to care for their relatives, workers trying to secure a better wage and business leaders who want to create decent jobs? That’s Ed’s message as our leader, and Labour’s mission as a party. That’s the politics that gets people campaigning, gets people excited and brings people out to vote.

Making sure we change our politics for the better rests a lot on politicians like me. We have to make arguments bigger than soundbites. We have to listen more than we talk. Most of all, we have to behave decently even when it feels like it costs us votes, because the people we serve deserve that respect.

When this election is long over, the smears and attacks will be forgotten. The challenges our country face will remain. That is why we have to do better than the undignified demeaning politics we saw this week.

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