Following Ed Miliband’s recent election as Labour leader, controversy has erupted surrounding his personal life.
Various newspapers have reported that he is in fact not married to his partner Justine Thornton, nor is he listed as the Father on the birth certificate of the couple’s child.
Since these details emerged, Ed Miliband has said that the couple will get married in the future. He suggested that his reason for not getting married was that political events, including the general election, got in the way. But does Milliband really want to get married, or are his reasons for marriage political?
His recent promise to get married suggests that he himself believes that marriage is a requirement for any budding Prime Minister.
But are politicians personal lives relevant to their ability to govern and should we judge them for their personal choices?
President Bill Clinton nearly lost the presidency and his reputation, following the emergence of his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Other politicians have been forced to resign positions following scandals in their personal lives. In 2008, Elliot Spitzer, Governor of New York, was forced to resign after his involvement in a high price prostitution ring was exposed.
But is it fair for us to expect this kind of moral perfection from our elected representatives?
To an extent, yes it is. In the UK the public get the chance to choose who represents them only once every five years; in between elections the general public are relatively powerless. Voters can’t simply no confidence politicians if they fail to carry out their promises. Politicians are effectively given a blank cheque between elections such responsibility requires a high degree of trust in politicans from the electorate. If an individual is capable of deceit in their personal life, there is no reason to suggest that they would not also be capable of deceiving the electorate.
While moral virtue isn’t an absolute must for politicians, it is probably recommended for any politican hoping to be re-elected in the future.
However, the recent scrutiny placed upon Miliband is unfair. If he chooses not to get married, that is his private business. In fact, he should probably be applauded for promoting an alternative family unit.
Politicians are human beings and it is only fair that they be able to retain some kind of privacy in their personal lives, unless of course their actions call into question their honesty and integrity.