Miliband is dead. Long live Miliband.

Labour leadership announcement, Manchester

Miliband is dead. Long live Miliband.

The party has spoken. The young pretender has triumphed over the old guard.

In a ceremony combining elements of the X-Factor, the oscars and a Cliff Richard revival concert, two men, united by blood, were irrevocably divided. David, like Ed,  will come to issue a statement of love and fraternity. Both will be sincere. Yet however close their embrace, this day will forever lie between them. Politics is a tough business. But rarely has an electorate been called upon to deliver such a cruel verdict.

Those hoping for clues in their body language were misled. Ed looked sombre, David upbeat. It told the wrong story.

Throughout the day, rumours had swirled. David by 4%, Ed by 3%.

Both camps were said to be confident. Both were lying. At moments like this, the nightmare overwhelms the dream.

Some were unnerved less by the likely result, more by the sense of helplessness that preceded. “I’ve never been to a leadership election where I didn’t know the result”, confessed one MP.

With fifteen moments to go the hall was giddy with tension and excitement. A defeated party? Not today. Here was an election we couldn’t lose.

The build up was misjudged. A video of Labour’s successes in office. A speech from a lost leader.  It set the wrong tone. Yes, we seek renewal. But we also need redemption. It was as if we had never lost. Gordon deserved a dignified farewell. But today was not the day.

Then the result. Like watching a penalty shoot-out, we saw the coloured bands sneaking across the board. David was ahead. Ed was closing. Then it was over. There was a pause, as if no one could quite comprehend the result. Then tumult. Almost without realising, our new leader had been crowned.

Ed, clearly moved, gave a short speech. No one was listening. It was too much to take in. Save for the moment he looked directly at David. The hall vanished. The throng dispersed. For a second, they were alone. Then politics once more crowded over them.

It has been an interminable contest; less an election, more a political route march. Weary contenders have dragged tired bodies around community centres, working men’s clubs, TV studios and civic halls. Union leaders have been courted and MPs cajoled. Activists have been unleashed, more passive members buried beneath an avalanche of letters, calls, emails and tweets. Engage more closely with the rank and file? By the end, few would have been surprised to have woken to find Diane Abbott delivering the post, Ed Balls collecting the milk and Andy Burnham cleaning the windows.

But though the campaign wandered directionless for long periods, by the end it found its purpose. With a vengeance. A battle framed between electability and ideology. Principle and pragmatism. Old certainties versus new opportunities. What started as the search for a leader became a struggle for Labour’s soul.

And to the victor the spoils. A defeated but invigorated movement. A party on the defensive, but with the stomach for a fight. A membership uncertain of the future, but relieved to have turned the page on its  past.

The challenges are immense. Ed Miliband will wake tomorrow to find that instead of scaling the summit he has merely reached base camp. His defining test is five years distant. The government is wounded, but still dangerous. However deep the cuts bite, the next election will be a choice, not a referendum.

But these are great sweeps on a giant political canvas. And the true import of today rests with the man, not the moment.

Tonight, Ed Miliband has never felt so lonely. Nor felt such a burden  of responsibility. In the mirror is a new reflection.

He is the victor. Yet his own kin lies amongst the vanquished. Struck down by a brother’s hand.

Miliband is dead. Long live Miliband.

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3 Responses to “Miliband is dead. Long live Miliband.”

  1. Can’t understand how the pundits called it so wrong in the minutes before the result.

    It was obvious to anyone used to people-watching that Ed must have won, as of course he would then look sombre – as would be aware of the responsibility he’d been given, and would be the only one who still had to focus on the speech ahead.

    Not to mention that David, had he been the winner, would have worked extremely hard to restrain a smile. If it was so clear to me, and presumably to others, why did Nick Robinson et al fail to spot it, I wonder?

  2. John Ruddy says:

    Its because Nick Robinson is an idiot. You’re right, David wouldnt have been smiling like that if he had won. I think Andy Burnham found it hard to hide his disappointment at coming 4th, though.

  3. Rachel Walker says:

    Molly, I must admit I didn’t get it, but I was hoping for a DM win so wanted David’s smile to be the winning one. I realised what you said as soon as Ed was announced winner.

    I am really sad DM didn’t win, I don’t dislike Ed, but I think David has more universal appeal. I felt he was the person most likely to get Labour back in power. I hope I’m wrong about that too.

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