Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Elder shall serve the younger

My brother points out that, as usual, the Bible has all the answers. Romans 9, v 12:"The elder shall serve the younger".

Saturday evening audiences are now used to live votes and the elimination of deserving candidates but the Labour party took reality television to a cruel new height this afternoon.

In the hall it was an incredibly tense and exciting count, going down to the wire and one percentage point in the end. "You couldn't make it up could you," one Scottish MP said to me. Neither, in the immediate aftermath, can you make a judgement but the next part of the script is already being written.

The victory speech, for an orator like Ed Miliband, was slightly underwhelming. We got the message about brotherly love and the torch being passed to a new generation but that won't be the narrative that the media or the Conservatives will be writing tomorrow morning.

They will be busy pointing out that David Miliband won the majority of the MPs, the majority of the membership, but lost 60% to 40% among the union affiliates - the "Red Ed" nightmare scenario.

Labour starts the fightback on the backfoot in the press, but hey, it would have been that way anyway. Opinion polling puts the party neck and neck with the Tories before the cuts have begun but the bookies (they called this one right) have immediately lengthened the odds on a Labour general election victory.

Brendan Barber warned that action against the cuts agenda could only happen with the support of the public. But impatient trade unionists could take action before then. Can Ed Miliband persuade the public that he is on their side, that's the most pressing question. One of his first showdowns, after he's cleared the air with his brother, might have to be with the unions.

The conference hall didn't have any measurable sense of elation after the result. It had been a long afternoon and the event, like the victory speech might have left them underwhelmed.

They say every political leader needs several shots of tremendous luck as well as skill and tenacity. On that result I suspect David Cameron was given a large dollop of good fortune this afternoon, out of all proportion to the one per centage point that separated two brothers.

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