28 Dates Later by Willard Foxton: Part Nineteen, the New York Millionaire

In which Willard discovers his inner gold-digger.

Now that I'm 2/3rds of the way through this experiment, I've realised something strange has happened to me. Whereas three months ago I was a complete online dating virgin, after 19 dates on 19 dating sites, I'm now regarded as something of a dating expert. I frequently get requests from friends to review their profiles, help them write messages and so on.

Leaving aside the ludicrousness of this as a proposition - I mean, if I was an expert at dating surely I'd have a girlfriend by now - it means I do have to sometimes give brutal advice. This has included having to type the phrases "I think women are scared off by the fact you dress like a Miami pimp" and "I'm afraid I think your messages display the sort of charm you'd expect from a Nazi propagandist".

That said, I have also seen some people with messages, pictures and profiles which seem perfectly attractive to me, where the person in question doesn't seem to be having much luck. One of these people - a very successful lady in New York - rather depressingly told me "My girlfriends looking at my profile think I come across as too strong and too smart." Too strong and too smart? Neither of those seem like negatives to me.

Indeed, my ideal woman would be strong and smart. My sort of idealised life in my mid forties would include me at home, writing brilliantly incisive columns in the morning, then cooking something from Observer Food Monthly in the afternoon for when the kids get home from school, before my high powered, strong smart wife gets home from her incredibly responsible, well paid job. Then, of course, we'd have a row about why I hadn't done the hoovering or something, but hopefully my excuse of "But I had to tell the nation how bad the Labour party are!" would placate her.

As a writer who's a good cook, I've sort of unconsciously been building myself towards being the ideal stay at home dad for some time. The problem is finding the sort of woman who's in the market for a creative househusband. And that's where millionairematch.com comes in.

I'd always assumed that millionaire dating sites were either places for sexually inadequate JP Morgan Partners to meet gold-digging bimbos (step forward Sugar Daddy dating, Miss Travel and Meet Wealthy Men) or are transparent fakes, trying to leech bank details out of wealthy men in the guise of a "wealth verification process". All of these sites encourage UGLY RICH MEN to register to find BEAUTIFUL POOR WOMEN.

Sugar Daddie

It's got a pretty seedy feel to it; especially Miss Travel feels like a site where you swap sex for airline tickets. The site specifically bans escorts - because swapping money for sex is sordid, but selling your body for a flight to New York is A-Ok. Unfortunately, being neither a rich man, nor a beautiful woman (not, lets face it, a beautiful man) I don't think any of these sites were for me.

That said, I had been intrigued by millionairematch - mostly because a friend, a barrister, had met her fiance on it. In her words, she was "sick of being taken out in Birmingham, and fancied being taken out in Barbados". She'd heard it was a good place for successful women to meet successful men, had registered on the site, and within a year was engaged to a lovely, handsome vice-president at a private bank. So, armed with the knowledge that it was real, I registered on the site & got to work.

One of the strangest things about this website is that the rich person has to verify their income, and you pick your income from a drop-down menu, before it gets verified. There's a screenshot of the menu below - my favourite option being the "Yes, I am the heir to a large fortune".

Millionaire date value

I imagine the verification process for that involves sending in pictures of your skin tight chinos and telling the site the name of your polo pony.

If you get verified as rich, you get a diamond next to your name, and you are allowed to upload pictures of your fabulous wealth. This is the most horribly gauche end of the site, with people uploading huge amounts of pictures of their shiny trucks, massive yachts big villas, and tiny cocks mountains of shoes. It's not a website I'd recommend to anyone who is easily outraged by a copy of FT How to Spend It or an issue of Tatler.

Millionaire

Men with massive trucks.

It's surprising how readily women on there respond to messages; although I do think I stood out by not being posed on the roof of my truck, pouring Cristal on myself. Indeed, my biggest problem was less finding a date, and more finding a date in London whose diary matched up with mine.

Eventually, after around a month of messaging one lady, she told me she was going to be transiting through Heathrow, and we arranged to meet for dinner in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Terminal 5. That's past security, so I bought myself a £10 one way ticket to Frankfurt so I could get into the restaurant. Sad long experience of missing flights for work (and occasionally pounding on the pressure door of aircraft, begging the crews to let me in) told me that missing the plane, even after missing the last call, wouldn't cause a security crisis.

So, anyway, I sat down on the ugly leather chairs, and waited for my date. I was proper excited - she was very charming by message, and, I'm not going to lie, I was excited by how minted she was. She arrived, bang on time, and was stunning. She was beautifully turned out, despite a full day at work, and was wearing an assortment of tasteful - yet doubtless incredibly valuable - jewellery. I suppose I wouldn't have sat trying to guess the value of my date's clothes had it not been a date off millionairematch, but there you go. I am a shameless gold-digger.

We got to talking, and she had a wonderfully blunt way of talking. It's not uncommon in people who work in the fund industry, but it was still hilarious to hear that manner of speaking transposed into dating chat. For example, she explained the failure of her first marriage by nodding gently, fixing me with a steely blue gaze and saying "Vegas Hooker orgy", with no further explanation. We had a few acquaintances in New York (take your pick, it's a small world, finance, or it's a small world, Jews), got to talking about work stuff relatively quickly. We talked a lot about business and politics; unusually for someone in finance, she was a Democrat, and so being left-wing in the US made her politically about the same as me.

We talked about the states, she told me about some terrible dates in New York ("He took me to his parents on the second date. He hadn't told them I wasn't orthodox. Cue lecture.") I told her a few hair-raising tales of travelling around the deep south, which she found hilarious. Before the date had really started, her flight was called, and it was over. She insisted on picking up the cheque (smile "I'm the millionaire, remember?"), and has since invited me to a dinner party in New York.

Of course, I'm paying my own way…

One-way ticket to paradise. 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.

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Chuka Umunna calls for "solidarity" among Labour MPs, whoever is voted leader

The full text of shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna's speech to Policy Network on election-winning ideas for Labour's future, and the weaknesses of the New Labour project.

There has never been an easy time to be a social democrat (or “democratic socialist” as we sometimes call ourselves in Britain). Whereas the right can demonise the poor and extol the virtues of the market, and the hard left can demonise the market and extol the role of the state, our position of constraining the domination of markets and reforming the state is, by definition, more complex.

It is nonetheless the case that social democracy has a historic responsibility, in every generation, to renew democracy and preserve a civic culture. This is achieved not through soundbites and slogans, but through the hard-headed development of a progressive politics that reconciles liberty and democracy, new comers and locals to our communities, business and workers, in a common life that preserves security, prosperity and peace.  This historic mission is all the more urgent now and my determination that we succeed has grown not weakened since our election defeat last May.

But, in order to be heard, it is necessary to make balanced and reasonable argument that both animates and inspires our movement, and which is popular and plausible with the people.  The first is pre-requisite to the second; and there is no choice to be made between your party’s fundamental principles and electability. They are mutually dependent - you cannot do one without the other.

We are in the midst of choosing a new leader and it is clear to anyone who has watched the UK Labour Party leadership election this summer that amongst a significant number there is a profound rage against Third Way politics – as pursued by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and others - as a rejection of our fundamental values.

In the UK there is a view that New Labour accepted an uncritical accommodation with global capital that widened inequality, weakened organised labour and we were too close to the US Republicans and too far from the European left.

I do not believe this is fair, not least because we rescued many of our public services from the scrap heap when we came to office in 1997 and there were very significant achievements  we should celebrate.  New Labour renewed our National Health Service in a fundamental way; we built new schools and improved existing ones; we set up new children’s centres all over the country; we brought in a National Minimum Wage; we worked with others to bring peace to Northern Ireland; we introduced civil partnerships.  Just some of our achievements.

However, though we may take issue with the critique, I do not think we can simply dismiss out of hand those who hold critical views of New Labour. Like any government, the New Labour administration made mistakes - it could and should have achieved more, and done more to challenge the Right’s assumptions about the world. In the end, it is not unreasonable to be ambitious for what your party in government can achieve in building greater equality, liberty, democracy and sustainability. It is far better we acknowledge, not reject, this ambition for a better world, as we seek to forge a new politics of the common good fit for the future.

Realising our values in office has been disrupted by globalisation and the surge of technological forces that are displacing and reshaping industry after industry.

Some argue that globalisation as an ideological construct of the right. But we must recognise that we live in an increasingly integrated world in which markets have led to an unprecedented participation of excluded people in prosperity, a rise in living standards for hundreds of millions  of people and a literacy unprecedented in human history – this is particularly so in emerging economies like my father’s native Nigeria. And the internet has led to a level of accountability that has disturbed elites.

Yet, this has been combined with a concentration of ownership that needs to be challenged, of a subordination of politics that requires creative rather than reactive thinking, and these global forces have exacerbated inequalities as well as helped reduce poverty.

So it is important that we understand the sheer scale and impact of new technologies. At the moment we are engaged in a debate about Uber and its threat to one of the last vestiges of vocational labour markets left in London, those of the black taxi cabs and their attainment of 'The Knowledge'. But the reality is that within the next decade there will be the emergence of driverless cars so we have to intensify our exploration of how to support people in a knowledge economy and the realities of lifelong learning, as well as lifelong teaching. As people live longer we will have to think about how to engage them constructively in work and teaching in new ways.

Once again, I'm addressing all of this, Social Democracy requires a balanced view that domesticates the destructive energy of capital while recognising its creative energy, that recognises the need for new skills rather than simply the protection of old ones. A Social Democracy that recognises that internationalism requires co-operation between states and not a zero sum game that protectionism would encourage.

Above all, Social Democratic politics must recognise the importance of place, of the resources to be found in the local through which the pressures of globalisation can be mediated and shaped. Our job is to shape the future and neither to accept it as a passive fate nor to indulge the fantasy that we can dominate it but to work with the grain of change in order to renew our tradition, recognising the creativity of the workforce, the benefits of democracy and the importance of building a common life.  Sources of value are to be found in local traditions and institutions.

This also requires a recognition that though demonstration and protest are important,; but relationships and conversations are a far more effective way of building a movement for political change.

One of the huge weaknesses of New Labour was in its reliance on mobilisation from the centre rather than organising. It therefore allowed itself to be characterised as an elite project with wide popular support but it did not build a base for its support within the party across the country, and it did not develop leaders from the communities it represented. It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics.

Over half a million people are now members, supporters or affiliated supporters of our party, with hundreds of thousands joining in the last few weeks. Some have joined in order to thwart the pursuit of Labour values but many more have joined to further the pursuit of those values, including lots of young people. At a time when so many are walking away from centre left parties across the Western world and many young people do not vote let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate.

So it is vital that we now embrace our new joiners and harness the energy they can bring to renewing Labour’s connection with the people. First, we must help as many them as possible to become doorstep activists for our politics. Second, I have long argued UK Labour should campaign and organise not only to win elections but to affect tangible change through local community campaigns. We brought Arnie Graf, the Chicago community organiser who mentored President Obama in his early years, over from the U.S. to help teach us how to community organise more effectively. We should bring Arnie back over to finish the job and help empower our new joiners to be the change they want to see in every community – we need to build on the links they have with local groups and organisations.

I mentioned at the beginning that in every generation Social Democracy is besieged from left and right but the achievements of each generation are defined by the strength of a complex political tradition that strengthens solidarity through protecting democracy and liberty, a role for the state and the market and seeks to shape the future through an inclusive politics. Solidarity is key which is why we 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.

Yes, these are troubled times for social democrats. All over Europe there is a sense among our traditional voters that we are remote and do not share their concerns or represent their interests or values.  There is surge of support for populist right wing parties from Denmark to France, of more left wing parties in Greece and Spain and in Britain too. There is renewal of imperial politics in Russia, the murderous and abhorrent regime of ISIL in the Middle East, volatility in the Chinese economy and in Europe a flow of immigration that causes fear and anxiety.

But, the task of Social Democracy in our time is to fashion a politics of hope that can bring together divided populations around justice, peace and prosperity so that we can govern ourselves democratically. We have seen worse than this and weathered the storm. I am looking forward, with great optimism to be being part of a generation that renews our relevance and popularity in the years to come.

Chuka Umunna is the shadow business secretary and the Labour MP for Streatham.