Wanting to assess the performances of the Labour leader candidates on Tuesday’s Newsnight, I had to struggle to see past the truly wearisome MC-ing of Jeremy Paxman, who managed to be snide, peremptory, and unclear – who also, in the chief scripted bit of ‘humour’, thought it witty to characterise Diane Abbott as some sort of high school cheerleader. Eh bien, nice work if you can get it.
Still, moving on. It seems the main thing people say for Ed Balls is that he would be a 'combative performer' at the despatch box. Cameron will be dreaming of such combat, with a man who has the tense, breathless quality of bluster, and is now completing the feat of talking out of both sides of his mouth.
I confess the apparent popularity of Ed Miliband For Leader has so far been a mystery to me and, having had my head sunk in my hands through most of his contributions last night, I only hope it ends up proving a mystery to 'EM' too.
Andy Burnham did better, got in some sharp points with seeming conviction. A caveat for Andy, though: I’m a proud northerner too, and I (and, I believe, others) wouldn’t vote for you solely or even partially on those grounds. Pack it in, eh?
On the subject of Diane Abbott, nothing occurs to me, other than in respect of her curious attribution of the ‘seeming’ public concern over immigration to an actual concern over housing and jobs – as if immigration were not an actual factor in the actual pools of the latter resources. I guess Diane must feel the working class of England continue to labour under false consciousness.
So, to Diane’s champion, and my pick, David Miliband. He said many impressive things and said them impressively, on the need for economic growth, for hard choices in foreign policy, for keeping a cool head on civil liberties and about the size and role of the state. We glimpsed a touch of prideful stiffness in this seemingly irreducible need to don the mantle of Anthony Crosland, but it’s quite forgivable, especially when Paxman (who attended Cambridge and whose own public service amounts to 30-odd years of sneering at elected politicians from a padded BBC chair) leapt in to thumbnail Crosland as some sort of sad ‘intellectual’ loser. Again, nice work, Jeremy. Rave on, our David.