Sketch: Kisses and umbrellas at Miliband's Labour love-in

Ed Miliband is soaking up every moment of his newfound adultation
Ed Miliband is soaking up every moment of his newfound adultation
Alex Stevenson By

It was as if a loveless couple had finally discovered their passion. Ed Miliband and the Labour party were making up for lost time.

"Here we are again, 24 hours later," Miliband said, breathing in deeply. This time yesterday the Labour party leader was delivering the speech which conference delegates in Manchester believe has transformed the country's attitude to Ed. Critics have acknowledged, some more grudgingly than others, that his 'one nation' address was the most significant Labour party leader's speech in many years. Receiving this kind of praise is a novel experience for Miliband. He was determined to make the most of it.

This afternoon's session was exactly the same set-up as yesterday's. The same two transparent tables creating an obstacle course for Ed to avoid, the same perhaps excessive number of glasses of water. The only difference was that Ed wasn't wearing a jacket. And there was no pressure. He was completely comfortable - and is now getting used to putting in charming, smiling, polished, impressive performances.

It started with a kiss. Near the beginning of his question-and-answer session with Labour party members in Manchester, Ed came across a great-grandmother. There was romance in the air. "There's so many tempting offers here," Ed said, wondering who to pick as the throng tried to catch his attention. "The lady in red." Ed refused to believe she was a great-grandmother. "Flattery will get you everywhere", he joked. She responded by informing him that, at a recent event, "I gave you a kiss... you've obviously forgotten". Miliband, who is obviously kissed so much he is excused from forgetting these things, was able to laugh it off. This was a thoroughly relaxed, informal event. All of which was to Ed's advantage.

Having been a budding promise for two years, his leadership has blossomed into flower this week. It is a red, red rose which has unveiled itself to Labour party members, who are delighted to have discovered after yesterday's leader's speech that their 'next prime minister', as they like to call him, can actually deliver a solid speech while appearing human and approachable. Yesterday Ed won over his party, and today he was here to soak up the plaudits.

More and more women seemed keen to get physical contact with Ed's lips. "You haven't kissed me yet," one complained. "Good to know," Miliband said. She didn't seem to take offense. Another exulted: "I'm the lucky one, I got the kiss yesterday!" And then, even better: "I've had so many texts!"

Ed took every opportunity to direct attention towards his speech. It was over 7,000 words long, he pointed out, and took 64 minutes to deliver. This was the lead-up to a joke about him threatening to deliver another lecture just as long on foreign policy, but it also served to underline the impressiveness of his achievement in memorising it all. He told a story about a baby's first words, after watching the speech, being 'one nation'. It was self-aggrandisement disguised as humour. Labour delegates didn't mind in the slightest.

They gave him an easy ride, on the whole. Yes, there were a handful of challenging questions, but these were not aggressive. Miliband dealt with them by hushing and soothing, like a political cough mixture. "I totally get the frustration," he said, nodding his head sympathetically to a public sector worker. "I'm just levelling with you." Others were dealt with more firmly: "Shouting does not make you more likely to be called," he told some especially desperate would-be questioners. "That's what I learned at school."

The enthusiasm with which delegates tried to catch their leader's eye was, at times, utterly bizarre. Veterans of this sort of thing know the trick is to wear or hold something distinctive. This proved effective: "the gentleman waving a crutch" was one of the first to get picked. Later on, questions were asked by individuals sporting a Union Jack, a hard hat and a "lady with the spangly bag". "Don't take it too far, this waving of garments," Miliband warned. The adulation had clearly gone to his head. Now he knows what Tony must have felt like. His success is proof that being a geeky politician really does work as a way to get the girls.


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