Sketch: Miliband's "one nation"

How many nations?

Ed Miliband staged a smash and grab raid on the Tory Party last night leaving David Cameron checking whether he still had his trousers.

He certainly had the Prime Minister's shirt off his back as he announced a take-over bid for "one nation" politics and declared himself the new Disraeli.

Using a former Conservative Prime Minister as a role model was certainly a novel way of catching the attention of a post-lunch Labour Party conference but then so was the surprise appearance of Max Bygraves in the place of Mr Bean.

There had been some clues earlier in the week with the disappearance from the backdrop to the conference speakers of any mention of the Labour Party.Instead proceedings were dominated by the colour blue so beloved of the natural party of Government and a handily placed 20 foot photo of a Union Jack.

Just to add to the confusion delegates took some time out before lunch to give a standing ovation to a Tory peer Seb Coe who took time out from backing his mate Dave to thank Labour for their part in backing the Olympics.

And so it was suddenly natural that the Leader of the Labour Party should turn up declaring it was all for one and one for all.

The ease by which he to into is message might be explained by the confusion which followed his sudden appearance before the audience he adressed as friends--no comrades here,

Those used to gawky movements of the leader formerly known as Ed M  were thrown by the arrival of a self-confident jokester who dropped geek-speak and announced "I wanna tell you a story".

And what a story it was involving not spending 500 years under an oak tree which was an apparent reference to Dave and is a description now used twice in speeches  without meaning anything to its listeners.

It did involve references to his time at a North London comp and the further revelation that he was-and may still be-a fan of Dallas now, hopefully like Ed ,making a come-back on Channel 5.

We also learned that is three year old son Daniel had helped dad think out his speech by declaring he wanted dinosaurs in it--but none of those in the new Ed partyad no naughty cut-aways of post-prandial trade union chiefs.

But it was a self-confident Ed who had them chuckling in the aisles as he prowled the stage note-less and sans auto cue proudly flashing his patrician purple tie and waving his hands as if looking for a neck to stretch.

He made do instead with a pantomime performance involving the wicked witch of the west aka Michael Gove who will be delighted to have had his leadership ambitions aided by being roundly boo-ed by Ed's friends.

Having told them that Old Labour was out as well as New Labour Ed confirmed that the way ahead had been discovered by old Disraeli and then re-enforced in 1945 by Clement Attlee--to be fair another Labour leader not best known for his charisma.

With an eye on the clock if not the election he took a few minutes to promise tough times ahead even if Labour gets back in 2015-after all it was applause he was after.

And applause is whart he got. Disraeli took three hours to make his One Nation speech, fortified by two bottles of brandy said Ed as he took only one fortified only by water. (You can take Ed out of the geek…..)

Earlier in the day a opinion poll said that only one person in five believes he has what it takes to be an effective Prime Minister as against two in five for Dave.

After today he may just have stolen that as well.

Ed Miliband. Photograph: Getty Images

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.