From blind date to speed dating: Ed Miliband's search for a partner
Who knows how popular Ed Miliband was growing up – maybe everyone wanted to be his friend. Maybe they queued up at school to raise Important Questions with him, to discuss The Questions That Matter.
It’s hard to say. But with a hung parliament likely, he is certainly in demand now. This has been a campaign dominated by talk of deals, and Ed needs a partner.
It started with the first TV ‘debate’, with Cameron and Miliband introduced to each other in a Blind Date-style format, in which they were unable to meet directly, but instead coerced into passing on crude political innuendo through Jeremy Paxman, forced into the role of a hyper-aggressive, vaguely dystopian Cilla Black.
Cameron went first, trying to convince us that we should just let him get on with balancing the books. With the economy in a precarious position, he argued, we must let the Tories finish the job.
"Watching from home, it was tempting to wonder if a better defence strategy might be to just stop selling guns all over the world"
And on the face of it, that makes a lot of sense. After all, you wouldn’t wait until someone was halfway through replacing a roof to suddenly stop them – that wouldn’t make any sense at all.
Unless they were doing a really bad job, that is, or it was taking weeks or months or even five years longer than they had originally estimated.
And obviously it doesn’t apply in every situation – you wouldn’t keep hiring someone if they kept doing a different job to the one they were meant to.
In fact you would probably be a bit annoyed if you paid someone to replace a boiler, then came home to find out they had sold off the Royal Mail for a fraction of its worth.
Miliband went next by attempting to woo the studio audience in a Q&A, with Kay Burley acting as chaperone.
And she obviously felt the need to get personal with the candidates, asking Miliband about his relationship with his brother following the leadership contest.
Looking pretty uncomfortable, Miliband admitted, “it’s been hard.” Burley, who was no doubt more sympathetic than she appeared, added, “your poor mum.”
And it probably was a difficult time for his mother. Admittedly, not as difficult as the time she had to flee for her life from the Nazis, but still difficult.
But who can say how difficult it was for her to see one son elected leader of the opposition, and the other forced to take up the shameful position of President of the International Rescue Committee.
Clearly it is every mother’s greatest fear for her children. He’ll be at the UN next. Why couldn’t David just have got into drugs instead?
So Ed kept looking, moving from his encounter with Cameron into a couple of rounds of speed dating, with six other potential suitors lined up.
But with Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett intent on attacking him, and Nigel Farage apparently intent on attacking himself, Ed’s options were limited.
The UKIP leader used the first debate to abuse people with HIV, before using the second to turn on the audience itself, which the BBC had apparently packed full of hippies and vegetarians in an attempt to undermine him.
One of the oddest moments came when Farage bemoaned the amount of money “going over Hadrian’s Wall” – which raised a number of questions, not least whether he is aware Hadrian’s Wall is in England, as well as how he actually thinks money is transferred.
Does he believe that £30bn in cash is dumped over a wall in Northumberland each year, before John Swinney drives down on a quad bike to collect it?
Next, an increasingly sweaty Farage announced that Trident, “is a necessary thing in the modern world”.
Wood intervened – questioning how much use an unusable weapon really was in defending the UK. Miliband compromised, saying he would have the weapon, but not push the button.
"You would probably be a bit annoyed if you paid someone to replace a boiler, then came home to find out they had sold off the Royal Mail for a fraction of its worth"
Watching from home, it was tempting to wonder if a better defence strategy might be to just stop selling guns all over the world.
Still, this wasn’t helping Miliband’s matchmaking. With Cameron having stood him up for their final date, Nicola Sturgeon was his last hope.
And there was some promise, with Sturgeon leading the attack on the Tories, even describing Right-to-Buy as “one of the worst ideas I have ever heard” – which is a powerful statement given she has heard her party’s policy on full fiscal autonomy.
Sadly for Ed, though, Sturgeon turned on him next. Over and over the FM attacked Labour for its planned spending cuts. Ed looked miserable.
Eventually, pushed for an answer on how much he would cut, he gave the somewhat mysterious reply that he would “ask the people at home to be the judge”.
What does this mean? An X-Factor-style contest to determine Britain’s fiscal policy Spin a wheel?
Or why not have some sort of ‘general election’ to decide? Every party could present a plan for revenue gathering and spending, and the people could choose which one they wanted – we wouldn’t need all the worry over deals.
If only it was that simple.