Saturday, May 15, 2010

Miliband v Miliband... to the death

So who is your favourite Miliband? David? Ed? Daddy Ralph, the noted sociologist?

Personally, my favourite is the Steve Miller Band. "Some people call me the space cowboy..."

Now that Ed has said that he will stand against David for the leadership of the Labour Party, constitutional experts and historians have been thumbing through the party records to find how to settle a brother-on-brother election. Normal rules are thrown out of the window, a straightforward ballot would be too awkward, debates would just be weird. Fortunately Labour Party history reveals plenty of precedents...

* Man-on-man wrestling. Naked. In a barn at midnight, lit only by torches. It's how Keir Hardie claimed the leadership over his brother Kevin. Many felt that Keir's bollock-twisting maneouvre was rather ungentlemanly - you wouldn't get that in a Tory naked wrestling leadership contest - but it proved the difference. Kevin's balls never forgave Keir.

* Cutting cards. It's a little-known fact that George Lansbury won the Labour leadership from his brother Harry in 1932 in a game of chance. Winner got to shout in vain at Stanley Baldwin twice a week, loser had his entry removed from Wikipedia (go and look: no Harry Lansbury). The first cutting of the cards ended in a row when they realised that no one had ruled whether Aces were high. On the second, Harry thought he had won with a ten, but George drew the Queen of Hearts and thus became Labour leader. George Lansbury went on to be more famous as the grandfather of both Angela "Murder She Wrote" Lansbury and Oliver Postgate, the creator of Bagpuss. No joke.

* Deed poll. They both can do it (at different times) but only under the same name. Ed needs to change his name to David or vice versa. Or they could both change their name to Mavis Figworthy. It's what happened with Arthur Henderson, who was Labour leader three times, from 1908-1910, 1914-1917 and 1930-32. The first time it really was him. The second time it was his brother Nigel, who had changed his name to Arthur. The third time it was Winston Churchill, who was just desperate for power. People wonder what Churchill did during his Wilderness Years between 1929 and 1939: the answer is he ran the Labour Party.

Incidentally, on the subject of name-changing, I learnt from looking at Papa Miliband's Wikipedia entry that his real first name was Adolphe, but as a Polish Jew didn't find life all that great in 1930s Continental Europe and fled to London, where he changed his name to Ralph.

I wonder how many other Adolphes changed their name through a desire not to be confused with Hitler. You never hear anyone called Adolphe or Adolf these days. Except for Dolph Lundgren, of course, who actually changed his name from Hans.

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