As the month of decision dawns and the voting forms land on members' doormats with the graceless plop of the junk mail they certainly are, we ask ourselves this. Will September prove to be an Indian Summer for the Labour leadership election?
In the spirit of blind optimism required to survive this trial of endurance even as a remote spectator, let us hope so, and that the electorate makes the right call. Thus far, after all, it has been a purely Pakistani Summer, a monsoon of irrelevance deluging any ambition of swiftly returning to power while the touring party trundled around the country for unending hustings as ritualistic, identical and easily ignored as cricket one day internationals.
Although there is no proof yet that any candidate has wilfully contrived to lose, the attack – even more wretchedly misdirected against each other than the Government – has been so weak that you wouldn't need the smelling salts on learning that they've been colluding with Karachi bookies to fix the result for the Coalition.
The most blindingly obvious source of suspicion is exactly the same as with the Pakistani bowlers: no balls. With the exception of Diane Abbott, whose parlaying of a minor TV career into a slice of D-list celebrity has been admirably opportunistic, and possibly one of the four male contenders, this has been the Castrati Election.
Now no one would wish to deny the testes-free their place in the political system. For millennia, eunuchs have done much more than bathe their masters and cut their hair. So priceless has been the unquestioned loyalty of the scrotally vacant that often they have risen to run their emperors' private offices, just as once David Miliband did for Mr Tony Blair at No 10. Recalling that, you needn't be an obsessive Freudian to grasp the significance of David's most treasured pose. It may be that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but in this context a banana is never just a banana. At the very moment he seemed poised to seize power from Gordon Brown, that wicked little subconscious of his whispered: "Go on, mate, show 'em what you're made of."
Alas, alas and thrice alas, he did. He proved himself irredeemably flaccid, as he confirmed a year later when again unable to rouse himself to remove Gordon Brown. Now we find David Miliband clinging pitiably to the ectoplasmic remains of New Labour, or "Next Labour" as he would nauseatingly rebrand it, when the sine qua non of the rebuilding work is to take the demolition ball to the legerdermain, vacuity, money-worship and sheer venality of the Blair governments in which he played so reliably unthreatening a covert role.
Since this column does not exist to propagate childish generalisations, let it be stated that eunuchs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You mightn't guess it from the bellicose persona, for example, but Ed Balls – much like his great uncle Goe in the wartime ditty – has no balls at all. The truism that bullies are invariably cowards is seldom better illustrated than by this archetypal poison-spreading courtier. His preferred style of over-compensation may be wielding exaggerated aggression rather than the banana, but you can't spend 15 years playing David Furnish to Gordon Brown's Sir Elton without being a 24-carat pussy.
The history of the eunuch as trusted domestic servant came to mind yesterday when reading a Daily Mirror questionnaire (you know the sort of bilge... "What's your worst fault?" "If anything, I suppose I care too much") put to all five candidates. Asked about the last CD he bought, Ed replied: "A compilation called 100 Songs To Do Housework To". A question about his choice of last supper drew the revelation: "I do the cooking at home...", while another reply began "At Asda, Castleford, where I do the weekly shop..." If the feature had been run to a third page, he'd have confided: "On the last Wednesday of every month, I treat myself to a Brazilian at Just 4 Men in Knaresborough. Yvette likes me nice and silky smooth down below."
On the nebbish's nebbish Andy Burnham, who astoundingly informed the Mirror questionnaire that his favourite food is Scouse, few words are required. The simple fact that this archest of sycophants greased his way into a Cabinet by slavishly supporting every policy he now claims disgusted him shines an adequately dazzling spotlight on New Labour's age of the eunuch. The consolation is that, when asked to pick one super power, Andy went for "becoming invisible". Not long now, watch, not long now.
And so, because there's no one else left, to the man blessed with the disapproval of both Mr Blair and Lord Mandelson. Evidently Mandy's attack on Ed Miliband for rejecting the New Labour legacy and Mr Blair's cunningly leaked private remark that he would be "a disaster" as leader offer Mili Minor a huge and timely boost, but there is stronger reason to elect him even than that.
It isn't that he is a more convincing computer simulation than David, although he clearly is (the graphics are so much more life-like; he's the X-Box to the senior Milibandroid's Playstation 2). It isn't that he speaks something far closer to English than the strangulated, triangulated patois of sonorously meaningless cliché that is his brother's lingua franca, although that certainly helps as well. It's not even that he conveniently splits the difference between David's Blair Gold tribute act and Balls' core vote-protecting, comfort blanket statism, though that helps even more.
It is simply that he had the cobblers to stand for the leadership at all, knowing that this must threaten one of the central relationships of his life. If he wins, the Miliband "soap opera" about which Ed Balls has been dribbling sound bites will take a sharp turn from JR and Bobby Ewing bickering towards somewhere darker than Southfork.
Although David pointedly declines to confirm that he would serve under his brother, which says something useful about his altruistic devotion to the party he affects to adore, the more pertinent question is whether he would ever speak to him as a brother again.
Much more than is generally acknowledged, even our watery brand of presidential politics is a startlingly genital business. Like it or loathe it (and most of us will loathe it), on some instinctive level it boils down to testosterone, which is why all successful women politicians mask their femininity. Golda Meir gloried in being the best man in the cabinet, Hillary Clinton had herself welded into the trouser suit and knocked back shots of Jack Daniels, Sarah Palin kills wolves with her bare hands, and Mrs Thatcher dropped her voice by several octaves, aware that high politics is no stage for the soprano.
Still less is it the arena for the counter-tenor. Where boysie girls can prosper in combat politics, girly boys cannot, and the eunuch's role will always be stealthily doing the bidding of others. However, a man prepared to destroy his family and break his old mum's heart in the quest for power is a man who need not look to the banana for an emblem of proxy manhood. Ed Miliband is the only candidate who may just have the balls for this job, and for those two reasons alone, Labour would be crazy not to make him its leader.Reuse content