Sketch: Meet Miliband Mark II – beware, ladies, he's a bit of a flirt


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It's hard to keep up with Ed Miliband's dizzying transformation: from robotic geek to visionary leader to shirtsleeved heart-throb in a mere couple of days.

When, back on the rostrum for the second time in 24 hours yesterday, he picked out Christina from Bridgend from the forest of raised hands at his Question and Answer session, she told him that it was her friend Barbara Jones, clutching the other end of a large Welsh flag the better to attract his attention, whom he had kissed earlier in the week. "And I'm so jealous," she added. "Yes, I'm the lucky one, and I've had so many text messages since, you wouldn't believe it," gushed Barbara.

A bit of a flirt with it, it turns out, and across the generations. "I'm a great-grandmother", Southampton delegate Eileen Wareham told him. "You definitely don't look old enough to be a great-grandmother." (She didn't). "You gave me a kiss at the South Eastern conference, you've obviously forgotten." "I remember, I remember."

By this point, even an evidently serial kisser like Miliband was worried it could all get a bit out of hand. As various delegates waved brightly-coloured items of thankfully outer clothing to catch the eye of the man they evidently thought had a lot more chance of becoming the next Prime Minister than they had before Tuesday's Big Speech, he told them: "Don't let it go too far with this waving of garments. We want to keep it decent."

He was certainly lucky to be handed on a plate the great West Coast Mainline franchise "fiasco". Nevertheless this was the relaxed, confident and astonishingly enough, decidedly human Miliband Mark II.

Now that the newly impressive Ed Miliband has taken on the mantle of Disraeli, the race is clearly on among up and coming shadow ministers to identify other 19th-century Tory Prime Ministers as role models. Hence Yvette Cooper's heartfelt encomium yesterday to Sir Robert Peel and his mantra that "the police are the public and the public are the police". Who can be next on Labour's new cross-party pantheon of the greats? Lord Salisbury? The Duke of Wellington?

But then it's hardly surprising that the party is reaching back beyond its own prime ministers. Ramsay MacDonald is out of the question of course. Blair and Brown themselves more or less abolished references to Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan because of the traumas of the 1970s Labour government. With poetic justice, they too have been similarly all but airbrushed from the party's history this week. Miliband repeated that the way forward was not old Old Labour or New Labour but "One Nation" Labour – the old/new two buzzwords looming out from the giant screen behind him. And health spokesman Andy Burnham was understandably applauded yesterday when he criticised the previous government for neglecting care for the elderly.

So we're left with Clement Attlee. Who might never have foreseen that he would be the one Labour Prime Minister to be mentionable at a party conference 60 years later.

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