All too human: is this the enquiring mind of a future Prime Minister?

Village People at the party conferences
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Indy Politics

Strange, in retrospect, to think that the people who rallied to Ed Miliband's leadership campaign last year came up with the phrase "Ed Speaks Human". Miliband never allowed it to become an authorised slogan because of the back-handed insult to his brother, but his backers really thought one of Ed's great assets was that he was normal and down to earth alongside the geekish David, who made a fleeting appearance in Liverpool yesterday.

Ed may be Mr Normal within the confines of the Miliband family, but to the public he looks like a policy wonk. But answers he gave in an interview in yesterday's Observer tell a different story, if you believe them.

The Labour leader claims that he does not read newspapers, does not follow opinion polls with any interest, did not watch or read Nick Clegg's conference speech last week and has not read his own biography by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre, and that the only books he read over the summer break were crime fiction and One Day by David Nicholls.

Really? That is the level of intellectual interest of the son of one of the great Marxist intellectuals of the previous generation? If true, standards are slipping.

Stuck record of the day

In a mercifully brief speech, Ken Livingstone, Labour's candidate in the upcoming contest for the London mayoralty, mentioned Boris Johnson by name 22 times

A shadow minister who's kicking goals

Congratulations to Andy Burnham, the shadow Education Secretary, for saving the Labour team from humiliation in their annual football match against the press. He led the fightback which took the score from 2-0 down at half time to 3-2, and scored one of those two face-saving goals. His team arrived in style, in a bus previously used by the England squad. Pity about the number plates. The night before, somebody stole them.

Plain talk with no purple passages

It is less than a week since the appearance of the Purple Book, in which six former Cabinet ministers, eight members of the present shadow Cabinet, and other Labour stars set out their suggestions on how to return the party to power. It is one of those intellectual exercises much loved by the sorts who congregate around Labour think tanks with names like Progress and Compass, but among delegates in Liverpool one senses a hovering mist of total indifference. Iain McNicol, a product of the trade union movement who is taking over as Labour's General Secretary, won a hearty round of applause for this section of his speech: "I haven't read every pamphlet by Compass and Progress, I'm not absolutely sure what the differences are between Blue Labour, Red Labour and Purple Labour, but I've always paid my union dues and my party subs, I've never ducked a leaflet round and I've never crossed a picket line."

That is the sort of guy Labour delegates like – especially for the bit about never crossing a picket line.

Prescott shows his true colours

John Prescott, absent from the conference in body but present in spirit, also contributed his thoughts on the Purple Book, via Twitter, and in doing so, I am afraid he showed his age. He tweeted: "It seems the Beautiful People have become the Purple People Eaters. Is that really Progress?" The cultural references may need explaining. The "beautiful people" – Prescott's name for the Blairites – is a phrase from a Beatles track "Baby You're a Rich Man", released in 1967 as the B side to "All You Need is Love". "Purple People Eater" was a novelty song ("I said Mr Purple People Eater, what's your line? He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine") that reached No 1 in 1958. Lord Prescott remembers it because he was 20, but your average Twitter user has parents who were born later than that.

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