Ever since a BBCNews anchor called Labour’s Party election “the fight for the Leeber Ladyship” I have been unable to take it seriously. I find this with Labour’s internal factions and strife anyway, but that image of the struggle to save Her Ladyship the Countess of Leebershire has stayed with me. So please do excuse this writer in advance if some of what follows is not entirely in The Slog tradition of careful empirical analysis.
There was a good piece by Melanie McDonagh in the Telegraph at the weekend on why Diane Abbott isn’t a national treasure. If we’re being honest about this, she’s more the size of the National Grid; but some time after reading the article, it struck me just how far down the talent-barrel Labour has dipped that a right-wing paper felt it necessary to rubbish a hypocritical featherweight like Our Diane, G’bless ‘er.
I’m not sure I understand why the Torygraph bothered anyway, given that her triumph would guarantee a place in oblivion for Labour even more remote than that which would follow the election of her protegeuse Harriet Harman. Harman sponsored her, we’re told, because she felt it important to have a woman involved. This is where Hattie and I differ: I would say ‘good candidate’ involved (and sod the gender) while she would put Rosa Kleb or even Rose West on the list for the sake of ‘balance’.
Just as those who claim to be ‘only human’ usually turn out to be inhuman when it suits them, so those who witter on about balance prove almost always to be unbalanced. Labour has this franchise covered too, for Ed Balls is both inhuman and unbalanced.
Slog comment of the week goes to loyalist reader Starckers, who pointed out that the Mauler from Morley’s name sounds like an instruction to Wayne Rooney: “‘ead balls”. And although it was the bookies’ favourite David Miliband whom Blair called ‘my Wayne Rooney’, Balls is far better casting for the role of brainless potato-head.
You may recall that three weeks ago this election was going to be comradely, so the best spin one can put on Ed’s conduct thus far is that he’s doing his best to embrace Alistair Darling’s sponsorship of rival David Miliband. Unfortunately, the embrace is that of a truculent python, in that today Mr Balls accused Darling of falling down on his job as Chancellor, viz, not lying hard enough.
This is an old sore, and very unlikely to heal until one of these two is dead: Banana Boys Ali and Dave were a major force trapping Ed’s fingers in the Number Ten door as the pre-election Budget took surreal shape. And of course, Balls is the Backwards Or Die candidate, and thus sees it as his job to pin the Stab in the Back theory on any and all surviving Blairites.
If David Miliband gets the crown of thorns dipped in the poisoned basin, I understand the aim will be to establish a family business along the lines of ‘Miliband & Miliband, Publishers of Fairy Tales to the Children of Gentlefolk’. In such patrician businesses, it would be customary for humble employees to refer to the owners as (in this case) Mr David and Mr Ed.
Mr Ed will be a name familiar to older Sloggers. In the late 1960s it was a US tv series about a horse that could talk. When a team of TV writers brainstorms stuff under pressure, this is the kind of thing that emerges. I recall it now as even dafter than My Favourite Martian, but nothing like as bad as Cavemen, which was based on the car insurance business. I saw Cavemen on a cable channel one early jet-lagged morning in Chicago, and can honestly aver that it made me feel profoundly uneasy.
Such nostalgia may seem slightly random but it isn’t, because when Ed Miliband talks (or rather, presents – he is patronisingly donnish in style) Mili Minor looks just like a horse. The quiet nodding, the sage silences and the enormous teeth: all the equine elements are there. And I recall that the Emperor something-or-other-ius – at that point where the Roman Empire had thrown in the towel – gained power on the promise of giving votes to horses.
So in that context, giving the Leeber Ladyship to a horse (albeit a well-educated horse) would be entirely apt. But it wouldn’t suggest a great future for the Labour Party.
For some sixty years or more (in the 1950s and 1980s especially) the demise of the Labour Party was confidently predicted. On both occasions, the pundits were right: the Oxymorons under Wilson destroyed the Party that transformed Britain after1945, and the Blairites vapourised whatever sub-atomic particles of Socialism were left after 1995.
If you look at the choices open to MPs and activists in this contest, there is in fact only one true Labour candidate – and that is Edward Balls MP. But the Labour Party with which he feels kinship by proxy was dead before he was born, and irrelevant after 1970. The winner will almost certainly be David Miliband – at which point you might as well call his supporters the Leeber Party for any difference it’s going to make.
Ed Balls will not be happy within this setup, but that doesn’t matter either: events will make this election seem like a bizarre relic of a bygone age within three years. By then, my money would be on something more useful emerging from the brain of the only man who came out of the Brown era with some degree of dignity: James Purnell.