Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Ed Miliband’s sporting own goal didn’t mar delegates’ enthusiasm for him

 

WC Fields said actors should “never work with animals or children”. There should be a similar adage for politicians: never banter with voters (or party conference delegates) on sport – especially foreign sport – unless you’re sure you know more than they do.

Scanning the raised hands in the auditorium during his Q&A session, Ed Miliband picked out a man called Drew who was wearing a Phoenix Suns basketball team cap. He himself, he told Drew, had followed the Boston Celtics – presumably when he was on his sabbatical at Harvard in 2002-3. “There’s always room for the Bird,” Drew instantly replied. That one, admitted Miliband lamely, was over his head.

With Wikipedia at hand, it’s easy to be smart after the event. Drew, it turns out, was referring to Larry Bird, an all time NBA great who spent 13 seasons with the Celtics up to 1992. And Milband is a baseball nerd, not a basketball one. But it was Drew’s home run. Or it was until he asked his question, which was why we didn’t “get rid of utility prices” altogether. We were an “incredibly rich” country and should be providing energy for “nowt”.

“Come on Drew,” you wanted to scream. “What planet are you on? Have you read the Daily Mail? Do you have any idea about the furore that greeted Miliband’s itsy-bitsy plan for freezing energy prices for just two years? And you want him to abolish them altogether?”

Miliband said politely that he believed he was going about the energy prices issue “in the right way”. And he left it at that.

This summed up the tone of the session. Either delegates congratulated him on his “fantastic speech” on Tuesday (so much so that you longed for a “You know what, Ed, that was a rubbish speech”, just for variety’s sake).

Or they urged him to go a lot further than he had. “You can’t control what you don’t own,” said a woman from the white-collar rail union TSSA, wanting the railways renationalised as each franchise came up for renewal.

Meanwhile, are his colleagues willing Miliband to revert to his earlier non-macho persona? One of the best jokes in the closing conference speech by deputy leader Harriet Harman suggested so. “When John Prescott got egged, he was massively angry and threw a punch. When Ed Miliband got egged, his immediate thought was ‘Oh God – I really hope this is free range...’”

The newly ennobled Labour peer Doreen Lawrence, also spoke. She didn’t labour the warm – but unsentimental – references to her murdered son Stephen. She was modest. She didn’t rant about the Tories. All of which was quite a relief after some of the Shadow Cabinet speeches this week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
people
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor