Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Labour Leadership Latest

I finally catch up with the exciting news that our Oxford PPE mafia are to be challenged by two horny handed scions of the soil: Burham and Abbot, both of whom struggled up through the despised academic backwater of Cambridge. Now there's diversity in action for you.

Oh well, it probably doesn't matter as John Lanchester nailed the result back on May 6th:

As is well known, it was decided a long time ago that the new leader will be a Miliband. It is less well known that in addition to the two Milibands we know about and show no signs of warming to, the party has several other Milibands in reserve. Fenton Miliband is one. He worked for Goldman Sachs, made a lot of money then had a moment of moral revelation and went off to work for the World Bank, then founded a non-profit to study the work of other non-profits in the developing world. His strengths are compassion and maths but focus groups dislike his beard. Another strong choice is Sholto Miliband. He has a beautiful singing voice and was given his own think-tank as a christening present. His special area is Scandinavian health care, and he is so popular in Norway that they named a fjord after him. Foreigners and working-class people have been shown to be reassured by him in statistically measurable ways.

There are plenty more Milibands where they came from. They are made in a lab. It took a while to perfect the process and some of the early prototypes were hideous, unelectable mutants. Most of them were melted down and used for parts, but one escaped and by the time he had been caught he had already found a job working for Gordon Brown and was building a power base in the party, so it was too late. The prototype was called ‘Ed Balls’ but in private the Milibands refer to him as ‘Igor’.


  1. I reckon its all a long game strategy whereby old Comrade Ralph is reaching out from beyond the grave. Imagine Leon Davidovich Miliband becoming PM with Edward Ilyich as Deputy, who then appoint Dennis Skinner as Chancellor, and Jeremy Corbyn as Foreign Secretary, with John McDonnell as Home Secretary, perhaps making Diane Abbot Culture Secretary.

    The secret state assasinate Leon Davidovich leading to his replacement by Edward Ilyich, and proving the need to smash the State, thereby confirming all of those ideas that old Comrade Ralph set out in "The State in Capitalist Society!"

  2. Charlie,
    I'm not terribly inspired by the leadership line up. I have a feeling that the leadership contest has come too soon. That the party might have benefited from a little more time coming to terms with the legacy of New Labour and the terrain of the 'new politics'.

  3. Hmm. "We need fewer politicians from the public school -> Oxbridge conveyor belt" is a proposition that makes perfect sense.

    But "we need fewer politicians whose parents were working-class but who nonetheless made it to Oxbridge" is a proposition that strikes me as a bit daft, given that people who've followed that path will necessarily a) be really clever, motivated and competent b) have experienced a fair amount of class-based struggle and adversity both getting there and getting through the course.

    Hell, I'd go as far as to say that if *everyone* in the PLP was an Oxbridge graduate from a working-class background, we'd have a far better crop of MPs than we currently do...

  4. Rab,
    I don't think 'not being terribly inspired' quite captures my personal degree of alienation from this contest. It feels more like a job interview for a CEO conducted in public than a political contest. But there may be reasons for this - New Labour is deeply managerialist and technocratic so it wants to close down the political aspects of any debate, because its' folk memories tell it that such debates are seen as the divisiveness of bug-eyed leftism.

    I'd dread a parliament full of Oxbridge graduates from working class backgrounds. The very real danger would be that such people (with some honourable individual exceptions no doubt) would find it almost impossible not to see the world through the prism of their own experience. This, I fear, might lead them to collectively imagine that the combination of 'innate' talent and academic application that they presumably might think themselves to possess is the answer to all the problems under the Sun. In other words, such a parliament might be blind to the structural aspects of power and disadvantage.

    That's why you need people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences in the house.

    Actually, the other thing which is not much discussed is how important the experience of failure is in anyone's life experience. I instinctively distrust anyone who seems never to have seriously cocked-up anything important. Without such an experience, people all too often make very superficial, uncompassionate and shallow judgments in my view.

  5. I never warmed to Miliband pere.

    He once lectured me on how there were more Marxists in New York than in Paris (I had fairly recently returned from living in Paris).

    Still us old Warwickians went to a Uni that's part of the Russell Group ourselves.

  6. Andy,
    Never heard ol' Ralphie myself - just liked his books. Don't know about the relative populations of Marxists in NY and Paris - but on the other hand NY is a much bigger place. Seems a bit of a silly point to make tho', even if technically true.

    I see John B has a post on all this up on Liberal Conspiracy( - inverted snobbery is the danger, apparently.

    27% of all MPs went to Oxbridge - and another 16% went to 'Birmingham, Bristol,Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, LSE, Nottingham, St Andrew's, UCL, Warwick or York' ( I think Warwick therefore has a bit of a way to go before it can claim to have a political stranglehold comparable to the old universities on the political process.

    Well, except for the wide influence enjoyed by your own must-read blog, that is Andy.