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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Other Silly Milliband

The British political class has almost eliminated 'real people' [such as miners, dockers and self-made businessmen; who formed significant cohorts of MPs even within living memory] from Parliament. 'Unreal' people who have no attachment to any identifiable strand of British society have come to the fore; especially in the Labour Party. Even in the bizarre firmament of Westminster the Milliband brothers are an unusual component of the prevalent class. Their immigrant academic father became influential in the left of the Labour Party which has always preferred intellectual games to any engagement with ill-spoken vulgar working men and women. The boys followed the path that their parents' patronage made available to them: to a carefully exceptional 'comprehensive' school that actually enabled its pupils for university entrance, to read subjects in elite universities where the admissions tutors knew their father from his writings and in many cases personally. On graduation they slid into to jobs that were recognised preparatory steps to adoption as Labour parliamentary candidates.

Both were elected to parliament, as candidates handed down from Party HQ to take over constituencies that may as well have been in another continent in terms of the brothers' experience and empathy. Both reached the 'New Labour' cabinet and David Milliband, once he was appointed Foreign Secretary, was tipped as a future leader of the party. After the electorate decisively rejected Gordon Brown's highly personal general election campaign in 2010, Brown stood down and in the subsequent election for a leader the younger Brother - Ed - shocked the faithful and delighted the media by competing against his sibling. As the campaign proceeded it became clear that the trade union component of the electorate had been encouraged to think that Ed Milliband was more sympathetic to 'old Labour' and more likely to repudiate the perceived ineptitude of Brown and the reviled warmongering of Blair than were the other candidates: and so against all expectations of commentators outside the party Ed won the leadership. His performance has rarely rated above 'embarrassing', despite the best efforts of the array of minders and scriptwriters, psephologists and policy analysts that surround any contemporary party leader. The recognition that a forced resignation of the new leader, followed by another election, would earn disastrous media attention for the party forced all factions of the party to coalesce in a show of support for a leader who was popularly likened to a cartoon character who displayed neither intelligence nor social grace.

In these circumstances the older brother has kept his parliamentary seat, but stood aloof from the shadow cabinet; repeatedly insisting that his sole political intention was to stand in his constituency at the next General Election as a back-bencher who was wholly loyal to his leader. He took on various tasks outside parliament: notably as a well-paid director of a local football club in his constituency, and as chair of a group to study unemployment among 18-24 year-olds. The report of the group has now been published. It strongly advocates the more extended use of artificial apprenticeships and fake jobs, subsidised by the state, to give the victims of these devices material to pack their curricula vitarum; data whose lack of applicability to what used to be called 'habits of industry'  will be glaringly apparent to employers who need to ensure that every employee is able to deliver full value for every pound spent on wages. The report refers to the scandal that recruits even to simple jobs like serving in Pret a Manger or McDonald's are much more likely to be immigrants than native British [of any ethnicity]. The report does not emphasise the very much higher educational standards [especially in numeracy and rhetoric] that are achieved in many foreign countries as compared to the UK. Employers constantly point to appalling ignorance, illiteracy, innumeracy and lack of articulateness in British school leavers. Their lack of social graces sits uncomfortably alongside the limited knowledge and exiguous understanding that is represented by spoon-fed passes in mechanistic GCE examinations, to make tragically immature young men and women undesirable as employees.

With the publication of his report David Milliband has become a significant advocate for doing more of the costly lifetime-wasting fakery that began with the Thatcherites' YTS [Youth Training Scheme] in the 'eighties, was resurrected under Gordon Brown and is now a major aspect of policy under the Cameron-Clegg regime. It indicates a thoroughly bankrupt mental landscape, and goes some way towards vindicating those who preferred Ed over David as party leader. David has dug this neat new hole for himself: how very sad!

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