It seems hard, almost impossible, to conceive that in two weeks time the Labour Party will have a leader.  In the four months since Gordon Brown disappeared from Downing Street, taking with him to his lair two bemused looking children, a state of geological permanence has settled around the notion that five people of lugubriously overlapping names and verdantly identical curricula vitae will continuously tour the country in the vain hope of establishing in people’s minds something that they stand for.  Their failure to do so should not be held against them.  On the contrary, their almost total lack of either distinction or distinguishing features has only served to reinforce and solidify a rather reassuring natural order that will be shattered when one of them has to be declared a winner.

We know that, to all intents and purposes, that winner must be a Miliband. Diane Abbott was never a serious prospect.  Rather she was shoehorned into the contest because the Labour Party cannot tolerate all-man shortlists; though if diversity was the objective they might just as well have crossed the species barrier and commandeered a wagtail, since the political impact would have been far greater.  Mr Burnham is, so far as I can tell, dead, or as near as makes no difference. Certainly, since announcing that he was going to locate his campaign in Bolton or somewhere like that, nothing has been heard of him, save for occasional reports on the state of his eyebrows. These, I am reliably informed, are kept alive independently of the host body, through a mixture of mulching and the periodic intervention of a set of jump-leads.

As for Ed Balls, he has developed full-blown Benn Syndrome,  which is the state of enforced reverence that settles upon dangerous lefties at the precise moment when the press and public conclude that they are not going to get their hands on the left-click of political power and thus can be safely patronised. An article last week in the Daily Telegraph went so far as to declare that Mr Balls is Britain’s “new political hero”.  And he has quickly rushed to fill the spot vacated by Vince Cable as the country’s most grating economic know-it-all.

It is sad, of course, that Mr Balls’ financial omniscience was never put to work when he actually inhabited the Treasury and (if his account is to be believed) bent Gordon Brown to his will, and since, the theory is, neither Miliband would make him shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, perhaps it never will be. The job of shadowing slimy Georgie incidentally could go to Balls’ wife, Yvette Cooper, which is hardly going to make for congenial breakfasts in Castleford which is where he priggishly insists they live.

Which leaves us only with the fashion accessory candidates, a pair of Milibands, and, even though I am spared the burden of a vote, I am anxious to know how we are supposed to tell them apart. Perhaps this passage from a recent article by Decca Aitkenhead in the Guardian will help. It is the older Miliband analysing the reasons why Labour lost:

“Yes, we lost 1.6m votes among DE voters, as they’ve advertised,” he says – referring to his brother’s team. “But we lost 2.8m votes among C1s and C2s” – the Middle Englanders who delivered Margaret Thatcher’s landslides – “who apparently were left out of his table. He compared DEs to ABs – and yes, we’ve got a real issue among DEs, we’ve got to get those votes back. But we lost 2.8m votes among C1s and C2s combined. Of course we lost fewer ABs – because we had fewer of them to start with. But we’ve got a 16% lead among DEs.”

Or perhaps not. One gets the impression that the same passage could easily have slipped from the throat of brother Ed, albeit with his Ds and Es in different places.

These are  not just geeks who have spent too long swimming in the think tank. These are the sons of an eminent Marxist historian and you don’t get more academic, detached, irrelevant and incomprehensible than that. The poor buggers never had a chance.  If I ever get round to writing their combined biography I shall call it affectionately A History of the Non-English Speaking Peoples.

Conventional wisdom has it that David M will win. This may in fact turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy since, so far as I can tell the most compelling reason – indeed perhaps the only one – for voting for him is because conventional wisdom has it that he will win. If Ed nonetheless slips through, it will be because of so-called “second-preference votes”, thus providing a timely warning about changing our electoral system to AV, a method characterised by outcomes where the winning candidate is the one with not enough votes to win.

I doubt it will make much difference either way. If I did have a vote, I’d be inclined to bang it down next to the name of Balls because he at least has an alternative economic prescription and even if it is wrong it deserves to be heard.  From either Miliband there won’t be a lot to opposition save for endless fiddling round among their C1s and their AB25s looking for the right combination of patter and cliché  that  rings the most focus group bells.

A return to the proudest traditions of Blairism in other words. A winning formula too, some say.  Once the country emerges blinking from the bunker after the nuclear holocaust about to be launched on it in the spending review that, I fear, might be just what it feels it needs.

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