The Labour party dragged out its leadership election result far longer than necessary, but it didn't matter. Ed Miliband's numbed gaping was worth the wait.
By Alex Stevenson
This was the culmination of one man's career, and the end of another's. The drama was scintillatingly intense as the results were slowly revealed. At the end of each round - which finished with Ed Miliband's results, critically - the tension increased another notch. Far from being decisive, each new round of preferential voting seemed to cut the margin again and again. The exhalations became shorter and shorter as the climax approached. "Ahhs" were joined by "jeez!" and high-pitched "ooohs!" from excitable females. The deeply unglamorous chair of Labour's national executive committee ploughed on through the numbers, which only became decisive with David Miliband's fourth-round total of 49.35%. At first only sections of the hall rose to cheer the result. Eventually, coming to their senses after their shock had worn off, so did the entire party.
The victor, the new leader of the opposition, the man repeatedly hailed as the "next prime minister", did not collapse into a fit of hysterics, as reality TV stars tend to. He is a well-trained politician so he opted for the alternative X Factor response. He was shocked and stunned. He was terribly emotional. It was what the TV audience wanted, but not the hall.
If the Ed Miliband biopic is ever made (and after today, who knows what's possible?) they must film this scene in the first person, the applause and cheering muffled, like they do in war movies after big explosions. Bombshells are frequently used by politicians when referring to policies of the other parties. Ed Miliband looked as if one of them had finally blown up next to him.
And so, in Ed: The Movie, Ed Miliband will be unhearing as his brother David (who, it turns out, really was sitting next to him), hugs him and ruffles his hair. This must have seemed all too real to David, whose dreams of leadership have come unstuck in the most overwhelmingly personal fashion. Perhaps it is the sudden devaluation in his political importance which made me notice for the first time, but as I stared at the back of his head I couldn't help thinking: you've got rather big ears, haven't you?
Meanwhile, back in the triumph scene which draws act one to a close, Ed Miliband was advancing past his vanquished foes to the stage. Assuming he becomes a national war hero the editors may wish to adjust the look on his face to something more bold, more convincing, than the unfortunate truth.
A stuffed trout would have seemed more animated as Ed Miliband gawped out at his newfound followers. He tottered on to the stage, looking utterly stumped by what to do next. The applause died away as his newfound followers waited for him to speak. He stared out. Was he savouring the moment? Or was he about to expire? An audience member laughed awkwardly. Finally, the new Labour leader spoke up.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I ever dream... I would lead this party," he said. If the movie never gets made, he has the consolation of this reality TV fest to replay. On The X Factor the winner's song is always slightly teary, never quite on key. So it was with Ed Miliband's speech. He told Britain "I get it" and the party that "a new generation has taken charge of Labour" on autopilot, as the most important truth - he had bested his elder sibling - continued to swirl and swirl around. The candidates may have sneered at soap-opera politics. But when a leadership candidate says to another, "David, I love you so much as a brother," what else is it?