Ed Milliband it is

Ed Milliband it is. Labour has elected their new leader, making absolutely sure the result produced such an overwhelming victory for one candidate that the party will not be damaged by years of infighting and thoughts of betrayal. A 1.3% margin is more than enough, isn’t it? A tiny margin of victory over his own brother? Yeah, that’s terrific.

Although when you consider that in the previous Parliament, warring Labour Brownites and Blairites could barely negotiate the opening of a can of soup without resorting to recriminations and calling for the lead can-opener to resign, a 1.3% majority can be considered a roaring triumph.

Worse is the fact that a majority – albeit a small one – of the parliamentary party and of members voted for David Milliband, meaning the only reason Ed has taken office is because of the unions. After losing by such a miniscule amount, the hurt and thwarted Milliband Snr told the party to “Unite behind Ed”. But with Unite one of the biggest unions, this apparently unifying statement could be seen as an attempt to write a headline for the right-wing press. If in his next public address, David tells Labour “Trade Unions Congress behind Ed”, Labour is fucked.

Some people are worried that Labour may tack to the left under Red Ed, welcoming back Militant-types, declaring war on the rich and eating cucumber sandwiches on CND marches. Unfortunately for all who wish to paint Labour as a proper socialist vehicle, the party is far too sensible to allow this to happen.

One of the difficult tasks Ed Milliband faces is that of defining his leadership. The shadow of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, two heavyweights of the past fifteen years, will linger for far longer. He will be constantly assessed as to whether he is a Brownite or a Blairite. BBC News this morning used the headline “Ed Milliband to shun Brown-Blair era”, in preparation for his first big speech as Labour leader at the party conference.

This suggests that without shunning his predecessor’s respective eras, he may walk to the podium and declare: “I look to start my time as Labour leader well, winning plaudits for wooing middle England and delivering a landslide at the first election I lead Labour into. Then I shall embark upon a highly suspicious war, kowtow to the media mogul of the day, continue privatising everything I can and to top it all, I shall lead us into the biggest recession since the Wall Street Crash and make sure we can’t get out of it again because the only people who make money are property speculators and financial gurus”.

That David Milliband did not have majority backing of members, MPs and MEPs, is a mess mostly of Labour’s making. Each section of the party (unions and affiliated organisations; members; elected MPs and MEPs) gets 1/3 of the vote, meaning that an MP has one ballot equal to 600 members. Meanwhile the famously progressive, forward-thinking Conservative party has an OMOV (one member, one vote) system, whereby everyone involved with the party gets a single vote. Then again, when you consider this system produced Iain Duncan Smith, Labour’s way of doing things seems completely rational.

The Liberal Democrats also have an OMOV system, but no-one knew this because their leadership campaigns have always been like the tombola at the church fate: you take a slight interest and might check the numbers eventually, but the end result makes little difference to your day.

It was also reported that nearly 10% of ballots were spoilt, although no-one had the heart to point out that this was because Ed Balls was one of the candidates. The high number of spoilt ballots makes Ed Milliband’s election becomes more problematic by the second. He won by just over a single percentage point and yet seven times more votes were spoilt than the margin of votes which gifted him the leadership.

Should the upcoming spending review lead to unions demanding strike action, Ed will be judged on how much he supports or rebuts the unions which gave him power in the first place. On the left of the Labour party, they will want him to re-establish the link between the party and the unions, while the right will want the continuation of Tony Blair’s commitment to “free” Labour from the clutches of trade union money.

Despite these pressures, Milliband’s task sheet must be headed with addressing the wholesome bollocks of David Cameron’s “big society” guff, which has become the woolliest concept in Britain outside Shaun the Sheep’s production studio.

He can’t please everybody, but good luck Ed. You’re going to need it.


Packing for lad’s holiday

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. At some point in the past six months and possibly against my better judgement, I have agreed to go on a lad’s holiday, getting pissed like there’s no tomorrow (and looking at the amount of alcohol my group are buying, the likelihood that one of us will fail to see the hypothetical tomorrow is rather high).

Not wishing to buck any trends or anything, but the venue for this lad’s holiday is decidedly uncool. In fact it’s Wales. Not just Wales; North Wales. A place about as enchanting as a night bus in Brixton on a Friday night, manned by two armed robbers randomly decimating passengers until the sole remaining person on board has to leap out of the bus into a bush of stingy nettles, like an even-more-twisted version of the film ‘Speed’.

The real reason for our destination being Prestatyn is snooker. You see, World Open qualifiers are being held throughout the week and a bunch of masters of the baize shall be there. Not only will we be able to watch some top-notch snooker, but we are actually entering the competitions ourselves. I’m not a bad snooker player, but having heard about the likely level of skill beholden to the Prestatyn players, I will almost certainly be dumped in the first round and then seek to live out Alex Higgins’ renegade lifestyle in the remaining five days.

Other people in my age bracket take package holidays to Magaluf and drink spirits from each other’s butt cracks as a seen-it-all-before rep tries to calm things down, before continuing the search for never-ending cheap drinks and cheap thrills. Hotel rooms turn into seedy filth-purveying boxes, as boys and girls enter and exit for quick no-strings-attached action. Yet for me, stuck in Wales, the sexiest thing anyone will be whispering in my ear is the referee asking whether I would “like an extension”.

Packing for such a trip is one of the hardest things to contemplate as it requires meticulous levels of planning and folding. Seeing Mum fold, wrap and bundle enough clothes to go on an Arctic expedition into a bag the size of my colon is a truly mesmeric sight. Either she has super-human packing abilities, or my bag is some kind of TARDIS and therefore bigger on the inside.

Failing to tell Mum that I won’t be back the morning after I go out is enough to induce a mild sense of panic, so leaving for a week to get mindlessly drunk has bought about mild hysteria. Today in town, she was picking up various toiletries in Boots as if I was being evacuated to the country to live with a grumpy old codger, like I’m the child from ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’. Seeing Listerine on special offer made her particularly pleased, although I tried not to point out that when our vodka had been demolished, we’d probably stumble upon mouthwash as our last alcohol-based tipple before crawling into a gutter.

I’ve been in chalets at holiday parks before and they behave peculiarly in any kind of weather. If it’s a bit chilly, they will exacerbate the cold and start forming stalagmites on the ceiling (stalagmites is the right word, I checked). If the summer sun continues and the temperature dares exceed 21 degrees, it will become a better oven than the pathetic effort found in the miniature kitchen.

It’s hard to know whether to take enough fleeces to kit out a herd of sheep or break out the flip-flops for one last time. But let’s face it, we are going to Wales; one friend who regularly holidays there said “If rain were currency, Wales would be the richest nation on earth”.

No week away would be complete without a chance to humiliate myself in front of the opposite sex, so it was no surprise when Russell, the erstwhile organiser of the whole trip, said in excited tones “There’s a netball tournament at the weekend, so the camp will be flooded with girls. It’s gonna be wall-to-wall pussy!” Oh good. Nothing gets me in the mood better than wall-to-wall pussy. Especially the disturbing image the phrase throws up.

“My mate Zach says that every person gets some on these weekends. Even the ugliest people end up side-by-side with some totty. They may be forty and fat, but it’s there if you want it” he continued. I’m not sure if jumping into bed with a woman who looks like she holds half the world’s reserves of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream around her waist is the best idea, but after half a bottle of whisky, I’m sure even John Merrick could get laid.

I’ll try and forget that I have more or less bankrupted myself to pay for this trip; things are so bad that as I drown in spirits in Prestatyn, I’ll have to block all thoughts of my poor student overdraft, which is currently weeping in my local Halifax branch, begging for mercy. It should be a lot of fun. Watch out Wales, here we come.

My middle-class fear

Many issues are swept under the carpet in modern day Britain and none more so than the thorny issue of class. There was a time, back in the days of black and white photographs and TB, when being working class was cool.

The miners and pit workers and factory workers of the mid 20th century were seen as heroes, performing the duties that no-one in the south would ever dream of. Well-off parents told their children that electricity came from fairies, not an unstable death trap mine in Derbyshire, where men with torches on their helmets worked day and night to put a bowl of gruel on the family table.

When Thatcher went after the miners, much of this sympathy had been wasted on strikes and baffling wage rises. Meanwhile, all of a sudden, the country was entering a time when greed was good. Being poor was seen as your own bloody fault. Private enterprise did make its mark, but the only entrepreneurs in poor urban areas were drug barons and loan sharks.

Nowadays, the extraction of ‘class’ from any meaningful debate has left a vacuum into which extremists have poured, portraying the battle as whites versus blacks or immigrants versus us. There is no longer a working class culture. Whilst the middle classes have The Antiques Roadshow, Michael Buble and a Prezzo in every town centre, the working class get nothing except a TUC meeting once a year and a meat raffle at the local.

The jobs in factory assembly lines of yesteryear that would have categorically placed you in the working class have been replaced by dead-end careers in retail. However, the people who work in supermarkets don’t know they are working class. They have been convinced that because their best mate Barry has been promoted to Supervisor on an extra eleven pence an hour, they are the next in line for promotion in the wonderful whirligig of capitalism. It’s like our very own shit version of ‘The American Dream’, but ours reaches its pinnacle when we become the Regional Deputy Supervisor of Iceland.

But I don’t know what I am either. I was born in a poor area (Hastings) but lived in a nice neighbourhood (well, it had a Tesco Express). My father was sacked on a good wage at a building firm and then started his own pet food business. Am I middle class because he was earning above the average wage when I was born? Or am I working class because he became a self-employed pet shop owner in a dingy shopping centre in Bexhill?

Things get even more puzzling. When my parents split up I moved to Lewes and stayed in a high-rise flat full of drug dealers and cash-in-hand geezers, but attended the local Christian school and went to Church. You don’t hear harassed Mums pushing wheelchairs into Communion on Sunday mornings, saying in a chavvy drawl “Oi, Daryl, get your ‘arris on that pew, the vicar’s about to speak, innit”.

Then I moved again to Moulsecoombe – a place so downtrodden it aspires to be working class – and attended the local primary school, full of kids with black eyes and parents sporting full-body tattoos. Yet I was elected to the school council. Even right now, despite thinking long and hard about it, I have no clue to which class, if any, I belong. I want to be a school teacher, which in government eyes would officially make me middle class but I also attend football matches and call the referee a tosspot.

I play snooker in Working Men’s Clubs but I listen to Radio 4. I’m at university as the first person to do so in my extended family, yet I’m staying at home to save a few thousand quid. And I use the word ‘quid’. Honestly, I’m a mass of contradictions.

Nevertheless, I get a kick from proudly calling myself working class, even though the majority of the evidence would point to me being middle class later in life (if I’m not already). I suppose it’s partly from a political prospective as I believe in moderate redistribution of wealth and it doesn’t help my cause if it looks like there are no hard-working working class people to redistribute the wealth towards.

I don’t really want to become middle class because it means I’ll turn into one of those boring middle-age wankers who sit in pubs on weekdays with their average looking wife, sipping half a Vimto, pretending to be interested in The Times crossword and wondering aloud if the latest Glyndebourne production merits a visit.

I want to have the money but not the attitude, basically. Ha! I’ve just worked it all out. Whilst it is clearly almost impossible to belong exclusively to one class, I have finally discovered the group to which I am headed towards with a great big twang of destiny’s arrow.

I’m gonna be a champagne socialist. Joy.