Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mr Ed Miliband Should Stop Talking About How Young He Is, Because He Is Growing Older And Less Fresh With Every Passing Moment

I am of an age where I can only be ambivalent about new leaders of the Labour Party. I was never very taken by the messianic drabness of Mr Tony Blair, who is the most successful leader of the People's Party, even though his success was based on what my old drama teacher, Mrs Ballet-Oliphant, of the Roxburghshire Ballet-Oliphants, used to call "charismatic misdirection". (Meaning that Mr Blair's vocal tunes were more powerful than the words he spoke, leaving the listener with the belief that they had witnessed something profound, when the text would show nothing more than ideological throat-clearing).
What were Mr Blair's memorable utterances? Well, despite his suppressed godliness, there was no "I have a dream". His fondness for global adventure did not produce an "ich bin ein Berliner". He did manage "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", though this is more usually credited to Mr Gordon Brown, with due to deference to mild green Fairy Liquid. He, or Mr Alastair Campbell, coined the phrase "the people's Princess", which sounds profound, but is close to meaningless. And I think we can credit Mr Blair himself for the assertion that "today is not a day for soundbites... but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders". (Now, as then, I wondered whether Mr Blair might have left the coat hanger in his suit jacket.)
Mr Blair also talked some nonsense about Britain being a "young country", which is not true in terms of the nation-state (Turkmenistan is a young country. Britain has a mobility scooter). Nor does it work as a statement about the age of its population.
Which brings me to Mr Ed Miliband's speech to Labour conference, his first as party leader. It was a very modern performance, devoid of poetry or persuasiveness. The prevailing style of political oratory these days is that of the office manager, explaining to a bored workforce that there will be no balloons at the Christmas party, and no party either. (The prime minister, Mr Cameron, increasingly adopts this posture, albeit with occasional flickers of Billy Bunterish derring-do; turning rapidly into derring-don't, as the "double-dip recession" thunders towards us,like a tsunami of black sherbet).
Mr E Miliband is not quite the finished article, but he has a decent grasp of conversational blandness. He could not, I think, convince a sceptic to purchase a second-hand Austin Allegro, but he radiates sincerity to the degree that a disinterested stranger might spray his trousers with a soda siphon if they were to unexpectedly catch fire. That I think, counts as a success in terms of achieving empathy with an electorate comprised largely of idiots.
But still, I found the core of his speech to rotten in a way that was very reminiscent of Mr Blair, namely his repetitive use of the phrase "new generation", a construction designed to signal optimism and freshness. Well, pardon my political correctness, but such talk is ageist, offensive, and wrong. Youth is greatly overrated, except by insurance companies, who understand that young people crash their parents' cars as lackadaisically as they breach the terms of their ASBOs. They turn our city centres into the seventh circle of Hell every weekend evening. And, as Ms Emma Thompson recently pointed out, they can no longer speak English without using the word "like" as punctuation. I hesitate to suggest that they could be improved by a spell of National Service, but a little instruction in elocution wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps, as the professional buffoon Mr Toby Young suggests, Latin classes would help. If nothing else, they would make text messaging more difficult.
But, like Mr Ronnie Corbett wrapped in sacrificial pigskin and dragged around town behind a Roman chariot, I digress. My point is that Mr Miliband should go easy on the New Generation nonsense. By stressing his youth, he merely ensures that with every 24 hours that passes, he will a day less able to fulfill his promise.


Wintermute said...

If the bibulous Charles Kennedy had remained as Liberal leader and become Deputy PM we might have been treated to a stirring inspirational "I Have a Dram" speech every single day.

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