Mr Bean comes to Gospel Oak

June 28th, 2010

David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary and the front runner in the five horse race for the Laboun Party leadership,  brought his campaign to Gospel Oak this week. He did not have far to come. His house on Primrose  Hill is less than a mile away. But in socio-economic terms, the Queen’s Crescent community centre, in the heart of the Kentish Town council estates, is at the opposite end of the class divide.

Although the leadership election has still three months to go, and it was a hot and sweaty evening, with the World Cup and Wimbledon, keeping most of the nation at home on their sofas, the room was packed.

The tone was friendly and informal. He did not stand up making a pompous speech. He sat down in a white open necked shirt, answering questions put by a friendly journalist, Steve Richards, the Independent’s political editor. He then listened carefully to the questions from his audience, answered them fully, and stayed on afterwards to chat to those who came forward speak to him.

By most criteria it was a very succesful evening. But I was left with nagging doubts as to whether he can master the art of modern leadership, whether he is up to taking on Cameron and Clegg in next time’s TV debates.

He emphasised that too much emphasis had been put on his boyhood as  the left-wing intellectual and son of the Marxist scholar, Ralph Miliband. His schooling had been in Leeds and at Haverstock School, alongside many children from the Kentish Town council estates. True. But it is also true that he is even more at home at an Oxbridge style seminar.

Would make a first rate university teacher.

And, I took several photos. But the all came out making him look like Mr Bean.

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