The Miliband Lab
John Lanchester · Britain Decides!
Britain decides! Or maybe it sort-of decides! Maybe it decides that it can’t quite make up its mind! But that counts as a decision too!
A corker of a point from yesterday’s politicalbetting.com. It’s such a strong and simple point that I can’t believe I’ve never heard it made before. Here it is: only once since 1945 has the UK gone from a majority government of one party to a majority government of another. Which election was it?
Answer: 1970. Heath’s Tories beat Wilson. In every other election either the incoming or the outgoing government were a minority. Does Tory boy Dave look like he’s going to repeat that feat? According to the spread betting, not quite. The three main companies have him on 319.5-321, 316-321 and 317-322. So the spread of the spreads puts Tory Boy on 318 to 320 seats. That’s better than the estimate of the final opinion polls, and reflects the Tories doing better than average in the target seats. The numbers only have to be out by a very small amount for Cameron to be waltzing into Downing Street tomorrow, and one of the points of interest about tonight is going to be when or whether Cameron declares that he’s won. Alex Salmond did that in the Scottish election of 2007, by the admirably direct expedient of taking a helicopter to Edinburgh and saying it was so. I wonder if the Tories have something similar planned?
And what if Labour do better than people expect and have a chance at a coalition with the Lib Dems? As is well known, it was decided a long time ago that the new leader will be a Miliband. It is less well known that in addition to the two Milibands we know about and show no signs of warming to, the party has several other Milibands in reserve. Fenton Miliband is one. He worked for Goldman Sachs, made a lot of money then had a moment of moral revelation and went off to work for the World Bank, then founded a non-profit to study the work of other non-profits in the developing world. His strengths are compassion and maths but focus groups dislike his beard. Another strong choice is Sholto Miliband. He has a beautiful singing voice and was given his own think-tank as a christening present. His special area is Scandinavian health care, and he is so popular in Norway that they named a fjord after him. Foreigners and working-class people have been shown to be reassured by him in statistically measurable ways.
There are plenty more Milibands where they came from. They are made in a lab. It took a while to perfect the process and some of the early prototypes were hideous, unelectable mutants. Most of them were melted down and used for parts, but one escaped and by the time he had been caught he had already found a job working for Gordon Brown and was building a power base in the party, so it was too late. The prototype was called ‘Ed Balls’ but in private the Milibands refer to him as ‘Igor’.