Bringing up baby

By Mark Dowd
July 14, 2009

At a time when respect for MPs is at an all time low, you'd be forgiven for taking a cynical view on any politician who is seen in public kissing babies.

Yet I tip my hat to Ed Miliband MP, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

Last weekend, Operation Noah engaged him in a climate rally in his Doncaster constituency.

On the Friday evening, I bumped into him at a showing of a powerful film called "The End of the Line" about the overfishing of the oceans and the near collapse of fishing stocks.

"I'm thinking of bringing the family on the march tomorrow," he informed me. This was indeed news, for in early June the 39 year old member of the Cabinet and his partner Justine, became a father to little Daniel, who weighed in at just a little over seven pounds. And sure enough, next morning, equipped with the baby buggy, Mr Miliband took his place alongside the Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Rev Cyril Ashton, the Lady Mayor, Donny Dog, mascot of Doncaster Rovers FC and the Armthorpe brass band.

Politicians are understandably wary about involving their children in public life (remember all the angst with the Blairs over Euan and Kathryn?) Mr Miliband could easily have got in a childminder or even persuaded his partner to stay at home for an hour or two while he was fending off questions about carbon capture and storage in St George's Minster. But no, at the age of six weeks, Miliband Junior was right in there on the first of what may be many public rallies.

As I marched alongside the family, a thought went through my head. Engaging the public on this subject - abstract percentages of emissions cuts, future threats of sea level rise etc - is fiendishly difficult. But here was a man with a six week old child and he is the man who will represent the UK at this December's critical UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

There's much time devoted to talk of "intergenerational justice" as a check to the all too human failing of short termism. As I looked at the Milibands keeping time with the band on "All Creatures of Our God and King", it did make me feel reassured to see the man in charge with his infant son. Surely, when he is negotiating with the Chinese and the US and trying to ratchet up our share of renewable energy, always near the front his mind will be the question: "what kind of world will it be for Daniel?"

It makes this issue human. It gives the voters something to connect to. Perhaps in the run-up to Copenhagen, we need to see more leaders with their families talking of their worries and sharing their dreams of what kind of world they want to leave as a legacy to their offspring.


(c) Mark Dowd is campaign strategist for Operation Noah ( He is well-known for his TV documentaries on the environment and other issues.

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