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Simon Carr

The Sketch: To get ahead, Ed needs to get his finger in

The polls for the Labour leader must be worrying for party supporters. Ed's approval rating may be as low as 17 per cent. We're all going to have to pull together.

Let it be acknowledged that we're into stage two now (stage one was not doing that girly gesture in public, as of applying lip-gloss). So, he does take advice. Improvement is possible.

Lesson two is... pouring water from a carafe. All potential prime ministers need this skill or they won't be taken seriously. Yesterday, before PMQs, Ed Miliband tried it in front of a packed House of Commons. It didn't go as well as it should.

Ideally, a future prime minister would glance at his glass and an underling – Ed Balls, say – would leap to fill it for him. Failing that – or if Ed wants to project an image of hardy self-reliance – here is what his friends must tell him. When gripping the neck of the carafe, keep the little finger in under the other fingers. If you let the little finger stray, it looks like you are cocking it. It looks genteel. It looks like you are trying to show you've been brought up properly. Prime ministers do not cock their little fingers when pouring from a carafe.

Second, don't hold your elbow into your side as you pour. It makes it look as though you are trying to control a trembling arm. It also gives a crabbed, constricted, huddled look to a person. It lacks grace. This is undesirable.

Third, don't try to pour the carafe along the same plane as your forearm. The bottom of the vessel bumps up against the underside of your arm and this interferes with the flow. Then you have to hunch your shoulder up to get the neck of the carafe to a pouring height and this makes a future prime minister look awkward. It gets noticed, and grabbed off the screen and filed on the website called Awkward Ed Miliband (qv).

No, you need to hold the neck of the bottle with a casual display of finger strength and pour at right angles to your arm in one easy turn of the wrist. Then, lifting the glass, the same rules apply. Not cocking the little finger, keeping the elbow away from the side of the body, not holding the four fingers flat and stiff but letting them curl naturally around the glass to give an impression of ease and confidence.

How about drinking the water? Oh, let's walk before we try running. Then there's all that opposing he'll have to learn how to do, as Leader of the Opposition. He does need to get a move on.