Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Ed Miliband takes to the hustings in the shadow of Attlee... and Mr Whippy
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 01 May 2013
The man in the Brookings Meat caravan who mics up to advertise his wares – “£10 pounds for a chicken, beautiful bit of beef” – gracefully fell silent to allow Ed Miliband to stand on a pallet and promote his own product in Long Eaton’s Market Place: “One Nation Labour.” Carmella Barbero, selling ice creams on the Mr Whippy van, went even further and told the Labour leader: “Business is no good, because people have no money.”
Perhaps out of gratitude to Ms Barbero, who had so graphically described the local economic blight, the Labour leader punctuated his one hour meet-the-people session by inviting his audience of around 100 to buy from her. By the end, he was able to proclaim, in the day’s most excruciating mixed metaphor: “The Mr Whippy ices are selling like hot cakes!”
John Major used a soap box during the 1992 election – still the last in which the Conservatives won an outright majority. But by 21st-century norms, Mr Miliband’s latest campaigning technique, of setting up in a town’s high street and talking to anyone who will listen, is positively unorthodox.
What gives it an edge, in an era of heavily controlled electioneering, is the pleasurable anticipation that anything could happen.
The most surreal moment had occurred earlier, in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, when the gurgled phonemes of 22-month-old Archie James rang out down the high street at eerily high volume as he nestled in the arms of his grandfather, who was trying to use the roving microphone to complain that immigration was taking “British jobs”. (This is a question that Mr Miliband answers easily because it concerns one of the “mistakes” which he repeatedly says was made by the previous Labour government.)
But while a core of Labour Party loyalists form the audience’s nucleus, they are organically swelled by interested outsiders, such as a fairly cross Mick Hewitt, 66, who was considering a protest vote for Ukip and told Miliband: “Your oratory was brilliant, but I’m undecided right? I will vote for you but it’s the team I won’t vote for – [Ed] Balls’s Labour Party – the other people that let us down the last time.”
Ed Miliband replied that he therefore only had a “few hours” to persuade Mr Hewitt before the polls opened in today’s council elections. For just a nanosecond we feared a marathon Castro-style harangue. But Miliband merely mounted a sterling defence of his Shadow Chancellor as the “one man” who had been willing as a “trained economist” to say in 2010 that “this conservative plan wouldn’t work.”
Curiously, the ghosts of Labour leaders past seemed to follow Mr Miliband in Derbyshire. He was told he was the first to visit Swadlincote since Hugh Gaitskell. And, in Long Eaton, Brenda White, 78, recalled that Clement Attlee had spoken at the identical spot in the 1945 general election. Gaistkell and Attlee would also have had no trouble handling questions from all-comers. So, Miliband went back to the future. And it seemed to work.
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
PAs cleared of fraud - and Nigella Lawson left reeling at 'ridiculous sideshow' of drug allegations and public dissection of marriage to Charles Saatchi
Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
Paul Walker's daughter Meadow attends Justin Bieber Believe premiere
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Bonuses for goals and top four finish as Luiz Suarez joins Premier League's top three earners
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
- < Previous
- Next >
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: PHP Deve...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...