Mark Steel: Voting how you want? Outrageous!
Ed Miliband won the Labour Party leadership, according to some people, because the unions levered him in with their wily ways.
The sneaky trick they used this time was to give their members a vote each, who then acted in their usual selfish fashion by voting for the candidate they preferred. So it must be time for new legislation that compels the unions to be more democratic, by making them vote for the candidate that certain newspapers prefer.
Even BBC news told us he "sneaked in with the union vote," as if the unions aren't made up of millions of people but are a pair of illegal bookies and a drug-dealer who, because of a quirk of history, make up 30 per cent of the electoral college. You might as well say the only reason the Tories won the election was they sneaked in with the votes of Tory voters.
So now there are front pages saying "Ed Miliband is in the pay of the unions. That is the only conclusion you can draw from the fact he's now been leader for four days and in that time hasn't ONCE served dinners on a British Airways plane or driven an underground train. Now the unions are expecting him to complete Labour's return to the Seventies by spending tomorrow not burying the dead."
One reason why Ed Miliband won a majority of trade union votes could be that, as one Unison delegate to the conference said, "He was the only candidate that mentioned the minimum wage". And it's cheating to get votes from people like that because those sort of people don't really exist anymore now we're all middle class, so that woman must have been imagining herself which means her vote wasn't valid.
And that's been enough to earn himself the title "Red Ed." Because communists might believe all sorts of things, but the main way to tell one is that they mention the minimum wage. That was the basis of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union insisting that you should occasionally mention the minimum wage, while in the free West we had a choice of subjects so we never got round to it, and when the Berlin Wall came down the East Germans all said, "At last we don't have to hear those politburo people mentioning the bloody minimum wage."
But it gets worse. According to one newspaper, "Miliband isn't mentioned on his son's birth certificate," as he and his partner aren't married. And when you think of it, you only have to look at him to see he's a wild Bohemian type who probably spends his evenings taking mushrooms and dancing naked at Pagan festivals and being irreverent about birth certificates.
The argument from his opponents is that he'll take Labour "away from the centre ground", making it once again unelectable. But the point forgotten by those who insist on keeping to this centre ground is that the centre ground moves. At one point gay rights and talking to Sinn Fein was extreme, but now it would be extreme NOT to support those ideals. New Labour was created to rid the party of its extreme image, as always complaining about wealthy bankers and American wars. But now those complaints would seem entirely moderate, and it wouldn't have been surprising if the Pope had said on his visit, "Before I do communion, let me say there's no point in any investment bankers coming up here 'cos you're way past redemption you greedy bastards."
So far Ed Miliband appears to be following this new centre ground, but already he's desperate to ensure his critics he's not really in the pocket of the unions, as if there was ever a chance he'd have rung the general secretary of the GMB union and told him that as 47 per cent of his members voted for him on the first ballot they could have every Wednesday off.
But the way he could really have made an impact with his first speech would have been to play to his strengths, by saying, "Firstly I'd like to thank my dear beloved brother, because while no one outside the party has much idea what I stand for, they do know Tony wanted you to win so this must have driven him mental". And he'd be halfway to winning the election already.