Manchester Diary: Ed refuses to let squaddies choose their sergeant

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Indy Politics

Shooing Rosie Winterton into the post of Chief Whip by persuading every other candidate to stand aside was Ed Miliband's neat way of spiking the stupid practice of holding an election for this post.

Letting MPs elect their Chief Whip is like inviting the squaddies to choose their sergeant major. The Conservatives would never be so foolish, but Labour did in the 1980s and 1990s, causing all kinds of problems for succeeding party leaders.

When Neil Kinnock was elected party leader in 1983, he inherited a Chief Whip in Michael Cocks, who owed his position to Jim Callaghan and behaved as if he thought Kinnock was an annoying young upstart. After attempts to unseat him Cocks gave up in 1985, but refused to vacate the Chief Whip's office until he had been found another of suitable size.

When Tony Blair became leader, he tried appointing six junior whips, all Blairities. The elected whips refused to work with him. A deal with Derek Foster to resolve the issue turned sour and he became the first MP to refuse to serve in the Blair government.

Quote of the day

"I think it's better to do it in person, really. I don't think it would exactly bring out my romantic side to propose on Daybreak, but thanks for the offer anyway"

Ed Miliband turns down the kind suggestion that he propose to his partner Justine Thornton live on breakfast television

Kinnock's rallying cry

Neil and Glenys Kinnock have been looking very chuffed about the success of their friend and neighbour, Ed Miliband. Lord Kinnock was moved to tears by the speech of the leader of the Danish Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt – who happens to be married to their son, Stephen.

What's she doing there?

Staff at Pizza Express could not help but notice how the same smartly- dressed woman turned up on three successive evenings to order a fiorentina. Hatty: in the words of the new leader, this is the generation which thirsts for change!

Win for Abbott?

Candidates with "W" surnames fared badly in the elections for Labour's national executive. Those whose names begin with "A" did much better. Top of the list of 49 candidates for the shadow Cabinet is Diane Abbott – but, no, she still won't get in.