Ed Miliband is in shape and has muscles. The training in the riverside camp has worked. The man is still a jabber. He keeps his distance and the blows he lands, though consistent, are not frequent. This boxer is more interested in victory than blood. Those appetites are more evident in his opponent. David Cameron has appetites nurtured by a callous elite which is why the vampire in him snarls when cornered in the sunlight.
Even in the highly praised speech by Miliband at the Labour Party Conference this week, the guard stayed high and close to his chin. The promises were modest although Ed did give numbers, the extra number of homes and apprenticeships. Miliband is no Roosevelt ready to embrace Keynesianism and he still has a chancellor who will take his misplaced loyalty to the banks to his grave. But this is politics British style. Leaders have to be careful. The gloves have to be extra heavy because the rich bleed so easily and the Tory press will claim a premature knockout if you ever do slip. The counts from right wing newspapers rarely go to ten. This time it was different. Ali it was not but Ed did dance around the ring.
The man displayed a confidence few would have imagined possible. Twelve months can make a difference and at least two ‘I told you so’ moments have added to his self-belief. All boxers will tell you that memory is important in a fight. The boxer who lands the blow will remind his opponent throughout the fight that he has hurt him, even if it was half a dozen rounds earlier. Boxers are not silent in the ring. They insult one another constantly. The hurt fighter will respond by doing all he can to pretend he hardly felt the blow. As the world champion Jose Torrès once said, ‘All great fighters are liars.’
It leads us rather neatly back to politics because there are a few left wing optimists who believe that Ed is just that. They think that he is being deceitful and that he is more radical than he pretends. They lick their lips at the thought of a Green Bank and nationalised railways without the subsidies currently being paid to private companies. Ed, the optimists say, will do the same as the Tories do, hide his plans behind talk of ‘One nation politics’. A couple of drinks and some left wingers imagine Miliband as Chavez without the red beret, someone who will create a participative democracy. If only. But there may be surprises. Every so often even the jabbers land knock out blows.
Britain is a failed neo conservative experiment and the tragedy for the British is that the neo conservatives are ideologues who believe that failure can only occur because the model is not pure enough. They are like the Communists who preceded them, sometimes in the same families. Prior to these madmen and women, though, Britain was a malfunctioning social democracy. There are two causes that have to be addressed by any UK politician who claims to be serious. They are social class and the broken UK industrial model. Neo conservatives think it can be fixed simply by removing regulation. Entrepreneurs and inventors, like they did in the 18th century, will rush out into the street from their living rooms and reshape the world. Neo conservatives are not interested in the successful industrial models that were established around the world in the last century. Invariably, all required government support and direction but when did facts have consequence for a neo conservative? Showbiz historian Niall Ferguson is claimed by them to be an intellectual. Well, we now know what has happened to his empirical credibility. The wary ask whether Ed is serious enough. He could be like the rest of the austerity clinging power seekers within the Labour Party who have spent their lives avoiding these questions. Ed Balls, the right hand man of Miliband, still imagines a future for Britain based on its financial sector. But Ed M, rather than Ed B, has two qualities that make the disenchanted still hope. He is not Tony Blair and he is not his brother David. They were superior political performers to Ed but flawed deeply by their elitist self-regard. Ed also has very good hair and Cameron is losing his. That must be worth at least three seats in the House of Commons.
And let us assume that Ed ducks the real questions that haunt Britain. Why not? Everybody else has in the past 100 years. We can still look forward to a personal contest that Westminster gossip demands, Ed Miliband versus Boris Johnson. We can all imagine. It would be the comic versus the serious, vaudeville versus drama and pop versus classical. One has to be pessimistic about the result. Britain is the country that did, after all, produce the X Factor. The great Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, died this week. He had a great affection for the English. He thought that we were a bit thick but ‘awfully good people’. I think he should have said blinkered and that takes us to the other cause of our failure, social class. There was much celebration over the Olympics ceremony and what was created by the Labour Government after the Second World War. Some people within the Labour Party believe that Miliband will be the Clement Attlee of our age. He will say a lot less than Tony Blair but produce a lot more. They forget that Attlee left the institutions of aristocratic privilege intact. One nation Miliband could make
the same mistakes. Neither should we assume that Miliband is an intellectual nor underestimate Johnson. Miliband may be a cerebral giant compared to Blair but considering his cultural inheritance from his family we are entitled to be sniffy about his degree. Johnson also knows what plays. When the nurses danced on the beds at the Olympics Cameron looked uncomfortable. Johnson would have the cheek to cut the NHS and join in the fun in the wards.
Nobody should be surprised that the Miliband speech was impressive. With a ten point lead he now thinks he can win. The brother is history and it will be a while before he gathers an army to lead a revolt. What is odd these days is that it is the Tories who speak out of turn. I cannot remember in this parliament one Labour MP being criticised for outspoken views. People in the Labour Party tell me that shadow ministers fear having their performance being reviewed by their Party leader. Like Attlee, Miliband is tougher than we think. But the King has to know that he really is the monarch. This takes us to Elvis and possibly his most important failing. He never understood just how much power he had. His success made him wary rather than confident. He eventually aimed his music at country charts, Vegas and Middle America. The rest of the world wanted to know why he ignored the other lands and people that he had conquered. Elvis underestimated himself and sometimes blamed himself for the death of his infant twin. Miliband has to avoid the same mistake but, unlike Elvis, he has no regrets about the blood on his hands from the defeated brother. Now that is a thought to give us confidence.
If you want to read about Elvis, rock and roll and much more click here.
If you want to read what happened to the author in Brazil click here.
If you want to read what the author and others say about Frankenstein click here.
A really excellent piece which follows the well received speech by Ed Milliband earlier in the week. I particularly liked the somewhat unexpected comparisons drawn with Elvis, which again demonstrates Howard’s considerable ability in producing provocative, well reasoned and original pieces week on week.
Very good, thought-provoking read. Call me shallow (OK) but I still just can’t take this guy seriously and I know I should. Maybe I’ve simply lost confidence in the ability of any politician to bring about positive change?