The dirty battle that is the 2015 General Election is just getting started. Back in September, The Sun mocked Ed Miliband for apparently refusing to be photographed wearing a wristband in support of the military charity Help For Heroes.
Last month, the shoe was on the other foot, when David Cameron declined to be photographed wearing a t-shirt from the Fawcett Society bearing the slogan “this is what a feminist looks like”. He received a battering in the press for this, especially after Harriet Harman wore the shirt during a session in the House of Commons.
With Cameron under fire, mud-slinging soon began. The Mail on Sunday reported that the t-shirts in question were produced under sweatshop conditions in Mauritius, which is a claim denied by both the Fawcett Society and retailer Whistles, which stocks the garment.
It’s depressing on a number of levels that newspaper front pages are more interested in politicians’ sartorial choices than in their policies.
Miliband’s choice not to wear a particular wristband for a newspaper does not make him numb to the struggles of soldiers. Equally, the Prime Minister’s decision to choose a shirt and tie over a slogan tee doesn’t mark him out as anti-feminist.
Elections should be about policies, not gestures. Whilst it’s great to see political figures endorsing and supporting important causes like feminism and aid for soldiers, it is deeply unpleasant to see it used as ammunition for political argument.
It doesn’t matter which causes our leaders support. What matters is their stance on the economy, on the environment, on housing, on immigration. Whilst this sort of stuff gives an interesting glimpse at politicians, it’s policies that matter to the electorate this close to one of the most important elections in recent memory.
Russell Brand is currently trying his level best to turn people away from politics and towards his woefully ambiguous “revolution” of voter apathy. If the people who represent the established system and the media that tell us about it are more interested in clothes than issues, what reason do we have to care?