First things first: He is good with the youngsters, full credit to him for that. Some politicians turn up to school events like it’s a career trail chore, pottering around classrooms asking ‘and what are you doing’ without showing any real enthusiasm for the answer. Just take a picture of me with the kid and his keyboard and then we’re off yeah?
Miliband isn’t like that. I’ve seen him on a few jobs now, and he rarely seems like he is in a rush. Of course, this visit to his old school was to help his Labour leadership campaign but he’s been back to Haverstock in the past. He clearly thinks he benefited from the education he received at the school and makes the effort to support it in return.
None of that, of course, means he should instantly walk into the Labour Party’s top job. That contest has five contenders yet seemingly no choice at all. Well that’s the impression you got at least from watching Jeremy Paxman’s coconut shy Newsnight hustings on Tuesday night. Twas silly. We learned hardly anything.
What we do know is most of the candidates have come through the special adviser career route, becoming MPs without ever having done a worldy-wise, real life job. They are effectively professional politicians without the life experience that, say, Frank Dobson would have got working for the leccy board. Did they ever even have paper rounds? I should have asked David M that.
In a question and answer sessions after the tour of the classrooms, we got a bit bogged down as I asked him why he had never done a ‘proper job’? He had after all told the children that he had first wanted to become a bus conductor and only really thought about entering Parliament in the mid-90s. Classic Mili-wrinkle-nose maneouvre: ‘I think Foreign Secretary is a proper job’. Fair dues, a tough job too – you just don’t see that one advertised much.
A reporter from the Camden Gazette perhaps put in in clearer terms when he suggested Miliband didn’t look like a normal Haverstock pupil. Brilliant. Um ah eh? ‘Don’t I?’, Miliband said. ‘Well I was born in Camden… I’m not sure what you mean?’ ‘You’re not like NDubz,’, I blurted out. Again he looked a little non-plussed.
Yet in this slightly awkward conversation, where spiky questions were slightly unexpected during a time unofficially reserved for him to get misty-eyed with the local press about his time at ‘Labour’s Eton’, again he didn’t flee. He stands up and fights his corner. I like that. When I met him in Kilburn during the General Election he was the same. Hardly a Malcolm Tucker or even a Olly Reader Thick Of It character was in sight. He faces down the questions head on whether he likes them or not: the kind of style Labour supporters should want in a leader.
PS: Does the Foreign Secretary still have a police guarding his house in Primrose Hill? How long after a general election defeat does it take for them to slip away or do they stay forever now?
PPS: Miliband has released this audio message recorded at the school yesterday to fill in the misty-eyed recollections bit…