Polls indicate that Ed Miliband could be Britain’s next Prime Minister. Having abandoned Labour activism a couple of years ago, I have to admit that the news hurts. It’s a little like divorcing your wife on the assumption that you’ll flower as an international playboy and she’ll spend the next 30 years living alone – only to discover that she’s the one marrying a bionic gym teacher and you’re the one left raising cats. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I'm the one with the great hair.

In fact, my gut tells me that Ed won’t make it to Number 10. He faces the age-old problem that Britain is a country of masochists where we always vote for the fiscally tougher party. Everyone resents the coalition and everyone’s hurting, but we all suspect that we need the pain to cut the spending and make us fit again. How else do you explain 18 years of Tory rule in the 1980s and 1990s? Nobody enjoyed it – we just thought it was what we deserved.

The other problem is Ed himself. A lot is made of his weirdo factor, but that's often just press nastiness (it's not hard to take an unflattering photo and inset the caption "normal" beneath it to comic effect. Very comic effect). The challenges that he faces aren't unique to himself but typical to all politicians. Folks just don't like 'em any more.

My own revolt against Labour (a family affiliation) was a rejection of politics in general. I could see the way things were going. A new class was emerging of professional politicians – all under 40, bright, obsessive, dedicated, clean (too clean).They were joyless people who would say no to the spliff being passed around the room for fear that it might kill their chances of becoming PM in 40 years time. They were also sexless (so many seemed sprouted like vegetables) and fanatical about the party in a way that was divorced from history or ideology. I recall being dragged out campaigning within weeks of the 2010 general election and told that winning a seat on a local district council was “where the fight back begins.” It was absurd. I was telling confused old ladies that David Cameron was tearing the heart out of Britain when he hadn’t even moved his tennis rackets into Number 10 yet. From me, the passion was faked. But for everyone else it was scarily real. Their eyes burned with belief as they rang the doorbell, collecting souls from the electoral register. Canvassing for Labour had become like evangelising for the Jehovah's witnesses - but without any Good News.

All three parties have been conquered by what TS Elliot called “the hollow men” - politicians who exist to exist. There is so much in life worth wasting one’s evenings over, including alcohol, Radio 4, jazz, love, God and Hell. But for these kids there is only the party.

Ed Miliband is one of those hollow men. He has worked and lived nothing but politics. The same goes for Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and most of the shadow cabinet. They all share that odd lack of regional accent, having a voice that feels focussed grouped to appeal to everyone from Margate to the Orkneys. Can you imagine any of them writing a book about Persian history? Seducing an intern? Eloping to Scotland? They are all a far cry from the grand party of Neil Kinnock – a man who could rouse, sing and shout in a voice that trembled with working-class dignity. Vote for Kinnock and you were settling a score that was centuries old.

The most important poll isn’t the one that puts Labour ahead but the one that says the British can’t imagine Miliband as Prime Minister. That’s sad, because I’m sure he’s a very nice man who wants to help. But what he fails to grasp – what Labour fails to grasp – is that we are all sick of politics. Most of us blame government as much as the banks for our financial catastrophe, so voting for a professional politician is as stomach churning as voting for a banker. In this climate, the only men who are likely to win the public’s respect are those who stand for something (Salmond), are entertaining (Boris) or speak to some sectional prejudice (Farage). David Cameron wins a second term by default. After all, he’s hurting us … and the Brits live for bondage.



Comments are closed.