It has been an open secret in political and musical circles that David Milliband and his wife Louise adopted two children because they were unable to conceive. Mrs Milliband plays, under her maiden name, in the second violins of the London Symphony Orchestra. In the chatty corners of orchestral life, everyone knew of her personal sorrow and everyone clammed up.
Musicians, media and public officials are pretty good at keeping secrets when lives are at stake. I can think of one major problem with a prime minister’s child that never saw print and another with the wife of a well-known conductor. The decencies in these cases are almost unfailingly observed, at least in the UK.
So why did Milliband choose yesterday to go public with the tears he shed during the IVF treatment he underwent with his wife in the course of trying to have children? What public interest was served by this revelation? Why were the public decencies not preserved?
The obvious reason is that Milliband is front-running for leader of the Labour Party and wants to separate himself from the rest of the pack with a single humanising detail. That’s what politicians do: they make capital out of ordinary lives, sometimes out of their own.
I don’t like him the more for this ‘revelation’. On the contrary, I think Milliband has given too much information for no good reason. It will do him no great good, and it can only harm the conventions of decency in public life. There are some things that just don’t need to be broadcast.