Miliband's supporters get a crash course in dinner-party politics
Politics, as anyone who has ever hosted a drinks party well knows, is a subject to be avoided at all costs in case the resulting discussion divides the guests and leads to insults being exchanged over the punch bowl.
But it appears that the team whose job it is to ensure that David Miliband becomes the next leader of the Labour Party is not familiar with this essential piece of social etiquette. The shadow Foreign Secretary remains the narrow front-runner to win the contest to succeed Gordon Brown, but his brother, Ed, appears to be close behind.
To seal the deal, the David Miliband campaign has produced a six-page advice sheet on how to organise "house meetings" to target activists wavering between the brothers. In excruciating detail, it tells supporters how to invite guests ("it's probably easiest to give them a call") and gives them a script to read, such as: "This is an exciting initiative to rebuild the Labour Party from the grassroots."
Hosts should research their guests' backgrounds and consider what "community issues" can be pursued to "help galvanise their support for David". Labour membership forms should be printed off for those convinced to join the Miliband crusade. Refreshments should be on hand because, after all, "no one can resist a delicious spread of food". Hosts are given precise timings to ensure the "big day" runs smoothly. They are told to be home by 5.30pm so they can "give the place a quick vacuum and general tidy (or not, if you're not that type)".
They should then "put the oven on and get the nibbles in. If there are drinks, get them chilling [and] pick some music". Now is the time to get membership forms "at the ready" and line up the entertainment – a David Miliband video.
When people arrive, "take their coats, get them a drink" and get them to fill in a "sign-in sheet". There should then be 20 minutes of introductions and general political chat. It could be at this moment that the host receives a call from "either David himself or one of his high-profile supporters". To avoid disappointment, party organisers are told: "Of course, we won't be able to call into every meeting, but you still have the downloaded video of David himself."
At 8.40pm, the host should lead discussion on "practical steps" for clinching a David Miliband victory, including fund-raising. Everyone should then be asked to commit themselves, in writing, to recruiting a specific number of new supporters.
The events are loosely based on the successful local campaigns that led to Barack Obama's eventual victory in the US presidential race in 2008.
Last night, a spokeswoman for David Miliband said the advice was not meant to be taken too seriously, insisting that it was "light-hearted" and "tongue-in-cheek".
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