Ed Miliband: The wrong side of the tracks
Ed Miliband spoke today about his painful and tough upbringing on the wrong side of the tracks
Eventually Ed enters the room and marches across to where I’m sitting.
“Sorry I’m late” he says grasping my hand “I had to stop to speak to some miners”
“Minors” he clarifies. “Schoolkids. Wanted my autograph.”
“Shouldn’t they have been in school?” I ask.
There’s a pause and then, caught out, he throws back his head and laughs with such an open mouth that I can see a bit of adenoid that his private doctor must have missed.
When he’s recovered his composure I ask him about his own schooling.
“Tough. Very tough. I went to a comprehensive you know. North London. Hard knocks, hard times. Pretty rough school.”
He nods grimly.
“Some of the kids didn’t even have a nanny and a couple of kids in my class only had one car. Some,” he says, shaking his head “Some of them even went to Spain for their holidays. Southern Spain too. Not the good bit.”
There is a silence while he takes a sip of tea.
“But I was marked out for leadership quite early you know. It’s always been something I’ve been around. I was Library monitor by the time I was 14 and Chess Club Secretary by the time I was 15. By 16 I was running the Computer Club.”
He smiles ruefully.
“You try telling someone from the rough end of Dartmouth Park they can only have two non-fiction tickets. That kind of thing scars you you know”.
“So it was tough?” I ask and he nods at the memory with moist eyes.
“And then you went to Oxford?”
He shakes his head again.
“Corpus Christi. Tough, tough times. What a truly desperate place. We had gang wars there you know? Ontologists vs Kantians. Just one predicate out of line and it could really kick off. That’s all it took. Head locks, wedgies, Chinese burns. Everything.”
His face darkens.
“We even had…” His voice drops to a whisper. “…Engineers in college. Think of it. Engineers! Not a cat in hell’s chance Cameron came across Engineers at Brasenose. Brasenose! Ha! Brasenose was heaven compared to Corpus. He had it lucky.”
I nod. “And then to work for Tony Benn?”
“What a rude awakening that was. Sometimes I’d be running errands, sometimes I’d be organising his audio tapes and of course making gallons of tea. I got a blister you know.”
He holds up his thumb and smiles gamely.
“Then the Treasury and then Harvard” I say.
He stares out of the window and a shiver runs through his body.
“Believe me, that was some campus you didn’t want to walk through last thing at night. The Bronx in New York, The Hill in Pittsburgh, Compton in LA and Harvard, Mass. The sorts of places you need your wits about you. If you dropped a subjunctive, mixed a metaphor, split an infinitive…let’s just say, I’ve seen it happen.”
He shudders again and looks out of the window, the memories still fresh. After a while he takes another sip and smiles that slightly goofy smile.
“Cracking tea. Oh by the way, did I say I went to a comprehensive?”
Adrian Moss is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator and a screenwriter
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