28 Dates Later by Willard Foxton: Part Twelve, Crazy Bland Date

In which Willard attempts to achieve maximum compatibility at the O2.

So, for this post, I did high-tech, mass market dating through the OKCupid "Crazy Blind Date" app. As regular readers can probably imagine, I'm at heart much more of the sort of organic, free range, farmer's market type at heart, so I was a bit nervous about this one, and not just because the last girl I met through OK Cupid tried to gnaw my finger off.

It's all a bit odd. The core idea is your smartphone is better at finding the love of your life than you are. I was sceptical, but it's certainly better at finding its way around London than I am, so I was willing to give it a go.

The phone uses your OK Cupid dating profile - where you answer a huge amount of questions, to get your views on certain subjects - to match you with other people using the app. You then post up that you are willing to go on a date with anyone, at a particular time, at a particular place.

All you can see about the other person is one sliced up photo of them, and your OK Cupid match percentage. Hence, "Blind Date". Unfortunately, what adds the "Crazy" is the fact that the match percentage is a somewhat blunt tool, and you know *literally nothing else* about the other person. For an example of how wrong that can go, here's an example of conversation between two people who are (in theory) 92 per cent matches:


Now, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to meet the man in question, and fortunately, the normal online dating process prevents this, because, you know, he comes across as a psychopath in the chat messages. The smiley face after describing someone as a "Feminazi misandrist whore cunt-slut", makes me seriously worry that this bloke has pile of skulls in his house. That he talks to.

Of course, with Crazy Blind Date, you could get a variation on this bloke every week for a month (assuming you survived). Still, for you dear readers, I pressed on. After a week or so of trying to arrange a date, I had no-one interested. It's an oddly cold experience - even colder and more mechanical than normal online dating, as the amount of human interaction is cut to an absolute minimum.

This is online dating as I imagined it before I had tried it. Chill, clockwork and weird.

While using the app,I found myself wishing I was just doing normal, regular, real dating, with a person I met by chance. On that note, one of my favourite, most touching stories, of how people met their partners, is from one of my devoutly religious friends. After a bad romantic experience, he found himself in a new church - he'd just moved house - and he got on his knees that Sunday, and literally prayed for a lovely girlfriend.

He then headed home from the church, and started to unpack and move in properly. Anyway, under the bed in his new room, he found a fairly large box. Opening it, he found a pair of what can only be described as kinky, thigh length, leather sex boots. Obviously, this was a little eyebrow raising for a good church-going boy, but at that point the doorbell rang, and he went downstairs to answer it, and standing at the door was a gorgeous woman, who sheepishly said she was the former tenant and she'd realised she'd left something under the bed in her room. Could she come in and get it?

He invited her in to return her kinky sex boots to her, offered her a coffee - and three years later, they are living together, and blissfully happy. Turns out, she's exactly the same kind of Anglican he is, and everything. Just with added kinky sex boots. It's the most convincing proof of the existence of the Divine I've ever seen. Sadly, as an atheist, I was having to rely on technology to fill that role in my life.

So, after a week of using the app, I was getting nowhere, and with a rare free Saturday night, I decided to head to the O2 to watch a film, as it was (somewhat randomly) the only convenient place in London that was showing this particular low-budget indie movie. Anyway, while out at the O2, my film buff "date" for the evening (a good female mate) asked me how the blog was going, I told her, and showed her the app while we were on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), a monorail that goes out to the East End of London.

We were at the point where the DLR goes from skyscraper shrouded future monorail, to monorail through blasted post-apocalypse wasteland picked over by mutant biker gangs, and it was exactly at that point that my friend noticed a lady who was an 81 per cent match with me was looking for a date at the O2 that night. Cajoled & given permission by the cinema friend, I messaged the Crazy Blind Date lady, and we arranged to meet. Alarm bells rang as soon as she said "Lets meet in the Harvester - they do lovely food there".

So, while my chum went off to watch a movie I quite fancied, I went to the O2 branch of Harvester to meet someone my iPhone thought I had an 82 per cent chance of liking. We met up - she lived locally to the O2, went to loads of live shows there. She was there that night to see Plan B. Anyway, we chatted pleasantly for about an hour, and then went our separate ways.

She didn't like film ("why would you go to the cinema when you can see it on DVD in a couple of months?", loved English white rappers and X Factor winners to the exclusion of all other types of music, wasn't interested in politics or current affairs and, final nail in the coffin, hated cooking ("Ugh, all that washing up - makes the kitchen so messy"). It wasn't that she was in any way nasty - she wasn't the the skull worshiping psychopath of my nightmares - just we had almost literally nothing in common, apart from really liking an unlimited (and surprisingly good) salad bar.

In short, 82 per cent match, my arse.

You'll be pleased to learn I made the 9pm showing of the movie, though:) Anyway, see you again on Friday morning for sleazy Facebook/Linkedin Hookup app Bang with Friends... where I manage to find a use for Linkedin!


Photograph: Getty Images

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.

Chuka Umunna speaks at the launch of Labour's education manifesto during the general election. Photograph: Getty Images.
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After so badly misjudging the leadership contest, how will the Blairites handle Corbyn?

The left-winger's opponents are divided between conciliation and aggression. 

When Labour lost the general election in May, the party’s modernisers sensed an opportunity. Ed Miliband, one of the most left-wing members of the shadow cabinet, had been unambiguously rejected and the Tories had achieved their first majority in 23 years. More than any other section of the party, the Blairites could claim to have foreseen such an outcome. Surely the pendulum would swing their way?

Yet now, as Labour’s leadership contest reaches its denouement, those on the right are asking themselves how they misjudged the landscape so badly. Their chosen candidate, Liz Kendall, is expected to finish a poor fourth and the party is poised to elect Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader in its 115-year history. For a faction that never ceases to underline the importance of winning elections, it will be a humbling result.

Though the crash has been sudden, the Blairites have long been in decline. Gordon Brown won the leadership unchallenged and senior figures such as John Reid, James Purnell and Alan Milburn chose to depart from the stage rather than fight on. In 2010, David Miliband, the front-runner in the leadership election, lost to his brother after stubbornly refusing to distance himself from the Iraq war and alienating undecided MPs with his imperiousness.

When the younger Miliband lost, the modernisers moved fast – too fast. “They’re behaving like family members taking jewellery off a corpse,” a rival campaign source told me on 9 May. Many Labour supporters agreed. The rush of op-eds and media interviews antagonised a membership that wanted to grieve in peace. The modernising contenders – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt – gave the impression that the Blairites wanted to drown out all other voices. “It was a huge mistake for so many players from that wing of the party to be put into the field,” a shadow cabinet minister told me. “In 1994, forces from the soft left to the modernising right united around Tony Blair. The lesson is never again can we have multiple candidates.”

While conducting their post-mortem, the Blairites are grappling with the question of how to handle Corbyn. For some, the answer is simple. “There shouldn’t be an accommodation with Corbyn,” John McTernan, Blair’s former director of political operations, told me. “Corbyn is a disaster and he should be allowed to be his own disaster.” But most now adopt a more conciliatory tone. John Woodcock, the chair of Progress, told me: “If he wins, he will be the democratically elected leader and I don’t think there will be any serious attempt to actually depose him or to make it impossible for him to lead.”

Umunna, who earlier rebuked his party for “behaving like a petulant child”, has emphasised that MPs “must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office”. The shadow business secretary even suggests that he would be prepared to discuss serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if he changed his stances on issues such as nuclear disarmament, Nato, the EU and taxation. Were Umunna, a former leadership contender, to adopt a policy of aggression, he would risk being blamed should Corbyn fail.

Suggestions that the new parliamentary group Labour for the Common Good represents “the resistance” are therefore derided by those close to it. The organisation, which was launched by Umunna and Hunt before Corbyn’s surge, is aimed instead at ensuring the intellectual renewal that modernisers acknowledge has been absent since 2007. It will also try to unite the party’s disparate mainstream factions: the Blairites, the Brownites, the soft left, the old right and Blue Labour. The ascent of Corbyn, who has the declared support of just 15 MPs (6.5 per cent of the party), has persuaded many that they cannot afford the narcissism of small differences. “We need to start working together and not knocking lumps out of each other,” Woodcock says. There will be no defections, no SDP Mk II. “Jeremy’s supporters really underestimate how Labour to the core the modernisers are,” Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, told me.

Although they will not change their party, the Blairites are also not prepared to change their views. “Those of us on this side of Labour are always accused of being willing to sell out for power,” a senior moderniser told me. “Well, we do have political principles and they’re not up for bartering.” He continued: “Jeremy Corbyn is not a moderate . . .
He’s an unreconstructed Bennite who regards the British army as morally equivalent to the IRA. I’m not working with that.”

Most MPs believe that Corbyn will fail but they are divided on when. McFadden has predicted that the left-winger “may even get a poll bounce in the short term, because he’s new and thinking differently”. A member of the shadow cabinet suggested that Labour could eventually fall to as low as 15 per cent in the polls and lose hundreds of councillors.

The challenge for the Blairites is to reboot themselves in time to appear to be an attractive alternative if and when Corbyn falters. Some draw hope from the performance of Tessa Jowell, who they still believe will win the London mayoral selection. “I’ve spoken to people who are voting enthusiastically both for Jeremy and for Tessa,” Wes Streeting, the newly elected MP for Ilford North, said. “They have both run very optimistic, hopeful, positive campaigns.”

But if Corbyn falls, it does not follow that the modernisers will rise. “The question is: how do we stop it happening again if he does go?” a senior frontbencher said. “He’s got no interest or incentive to change the voting method. We could lose nurse and end up with something worse.” If the road back to power is long for Labour, it is longest of all for the Blairites. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 03 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Pope of the masses