TLIAW: For Want Of A Paragraph


What have we here?

A new timeline.

It looks fancy. Can't wait.

...thank you.

You sound guarded.

You aren't normally this nice.

Oh, you know, festive season and all that. Plus, I'm a huge fan of David Miliband.

This explains a great many things.

Just because I'm being pleasant doesn't mean it's your turn to be a snarky git.

Point taken. Anyway-

Hang on, this is a TLIAW. Not a TLIAD.

Yes. Timeline in a week, not a day.

Are you losing your touch?

No, I just want to take my time with this one. And what happened to the festive season?

Just asking! And it's a fair question. You wouldn't want people to think you were nothing without Roem...

I heard that. I don't know why you thought I wouldn't hear it, you're literally a voice in my head.

I've been meaning to bring this up with you, this is not behaviour that most people would consider normal-

Do you have any actual questions?

Fine. Style?



Answers on a postcard.


What do you mean by that?

All your TLs these days seem to have a point to prove. The first one was an attempt to show it could be done; the Boris one showed you could do narrative TLs in a short format; the Soviet Britain one was meant to show people list TLs could build innovative worlds; that 'Wiping the Bum' one or whatever it was called was... something shit; and that Norwegian bollocks you did last month was something to do with small changes coming from a potentially big POD. And journalism, or something.

You see, you're trying to be insulting, but you're really just revealing how much of an eye you keep on my work. It's really very touching. The spirit of Christmas is alive after all.

Just answer the bloody question.

This one doesn't have a clear 'point'. Not one that I'm going to reveal at this stage, anyway. All I'll say is this: it feels good to be writing a pure narrative TL post-Lavender.

And without Jack?

You wash your mouth out. That man is a saint.

This has been the longest conversation with yourself you've ever had. I bet it's longer than at least two of the chapters.

You may be right. And on that note, I think it's time I got on with it.


Merry Christmas to you too.​
Oh God, I know exactly what's coming. For probably the first time in a Meadow TL. :D

I think.




Where am I?

With a series of soft clicks, David Miliband stopped writing. Then, with a single, harder click, he deleted the sentence he'd just finished. Another dud.

He rubbed his eyes and drained the last of his coffee, making a face as a couple of grounds got stuck in his teeth. Louise had made it for him just before she went to bed, and judging by its temperature, that must have been more than an hour ago. A glance at the bottom of the computer screen told him it was half past midnight.

The Guardian needed the article by 4:30am at the latest, apparently. Well, he was on track for that, at least. The piece had theoretically been finished for two hours. He just wasn't anywhere near happy with it. Why? With a sigh, David highlighted the last sentence.

So let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves, enjoy a break, and then find the confidence to make our case afresh.

Weedy, mealy-mouthed bollocks. The whole piece was an expertly crafted assassination attempt. The tribute to Labour history was an expert display of shinning over a perimeter fence. The tactical acknowledgment of New Labour's missteps was a flawless pair of karate chops to the necks of unsuspecting bodyguards. The lengthy condemnation of Cameron kept all eyes on the distraction in the courtyard while Miliband clambered up a drainpipe - and entered a second floor window with a casual reference to reforming the NHS. The bold rhetoric on the 'task of government' - and of modernising Labour - was the final few steps towards the bedroom of his target, neatly snapping the neck of a sleeping guard dog on the way.

But now, pistol raised, target acquired and all other threats eliminated, those final, lily-livered words were the equivalent of dropping the gun, giving Gordon a cheery wave, and saying 'well, see you next week.'

It wasn't good enough. There was so much more to convey - and it could be done explicitly. Couldn't it? A dagger had traditionally been wielded from more auspicious places than Comment Is Free, admittedly. The green benches, the Tea Rooms, even the Admiralty. All were more appropriate backdrops for a bloodless coup. Aside from giving Alan Rusbridger a hard-on (and Polly Toynbee an aneurysm), was this really the right way to do it?

He knew roughly what he'd say instead of that awful conclusion. He even had some turns of phrase ready. But all evening he'd been telling himself he'd get round to writing it, but his fingers just wouldn't do it.

"Is this a laptop I see before me?" he muttered.

His Shakespearean musings were interrupted by the pulsing of his BlackBerry. It started turning in circles on the desk, and the screen lit up. Reaching for it, David realised who it was from.

'R we on?' James Purnell had written.

Short and to the point, but with a hint of excitement. Typical James. Purnell had always given David the impression of a man in politics out of a desire to re-enact scenes from The West Wing - even before the programme had aired, David mused, recalling their mid-90s heyday as SpAds.

Picking up the phone, David pondered how exactly to respond. He, James and the others had 'gamed out' the various paths that could be taken. The most broadly favoured was the one his article currently trod - write a rhetorically strong, barnburning 'speech in column form', but make no reference to Gordon, or his leadership. Then hit the sofas, make lots of noises about change, and hope the groundswell of support was enough to push the Caledonian Mafia onto their collective swords at conference in September.

Except, as James had passionately argued, that wouldn't work. The Broons had waited ten years for power - four of them in a state of bitterness unseen since Ted Heath died - and the idea that some fighting words in an Islington fishwrapper would frighten them into submission was pure poppycock. James had used stronger words than that, and David himself had needed to step in and calm the conversation down. Patricia's dining room was not to be treated as the floor of the Commons. With James fuming but silent, his proposed path - a mass-resignation kicked off by an explicitly critical column - was talked out of play by the rest of the team. It was too risky, too bold, and wouldn't play well with a Westminster village already on its collective way to the summer holidays.

The BlackBerry stared back at Miliband, his reply to Purnell still pointedly blank. Not for the first time, David wished he could call Tony. His guidance - along with Alistair's - could be gold dust at this point. But Tony was 'strictly off-limits' these days, that had been agreed. Aside from the probability that he didn't give a shit about Westminster now that he was zipping back and forth between D.C. and the Middle East, there was still - incredibly - a tiny risk that he would not look kindly on their little scheme. Not out of any great love for Gordon - goodness, no. But Tony was a man forged in the fires of the great schisms of Labour. He had seen what division did to the party, and what that, in turn, did for its opponents. His was a leadership defined by fanatical unity and loyalty at any cost: to rely on Tony not to blab everything to Gordon - via an intermediary, presumably - was too great a gamble to take.

Still... what would Tony do? David closed his eyes and tried to channel the spirit of Labour's greatest helmsman. In particular, he focused on the young man who had, on learning of John Smith's death, set in motion the events that would culminate in The Deal, his election, and '97. Trying his hardest not to feel silly, David filled his mind with New Labour buzzwords, Blairite thoughts, and famous catchphrases. 'We're on the same side, we're on the same team' didn't seem particularly appropriate, and 'Education, education, education' was straining a little hard for relevance, but...

David opened his eyes. If James' plan was too violent, but the consensus plan was too timid, there was one, clear answer. Another option. A middle ground. A different way. A third way.

In the next room, a drowsy Louise rolled over and put a pillow over her ears. The soft clicks of David's typing had become very loud indeed.​

If I've got it right, David is about to take a gamble which I think will cause his party to implode.

But I might be wrong. Either way, another good take on the TLIAD format.
It's times like this when I wish I knew more about UK politics. It's like this where I renew my internal vow to learn more about UK politics.

No matter! I shall still follow this!
Very happy to see this finally seeing the light of day.

The Elder Brother finally decides to put his money where his torture-abetting mouth is, which I suppose we can all agree is basically a good thing.

I really like that you've managed to capture how much technology has moved on over the past couple of years, right up to Mr Purnell's texting ability.

Can I also point out that using the Grauniad fort and website style is inspired!

I'll be reading, as ever, with baited breath. As you know, I also have something planned for tomorrow as well, but this - obviously - will come first.
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So David has decided to plunge the knife into the back of Gordon. Will he now wear the crown or will somebody else do so? And how will it affect the election coming up within the next two years?

It will be interesting to see.
Looks interesting. I'm assuming Alistair Darling isn't in on the coup, but his response could be crucial: if Miliband and Purnell resign, it'll be up to him to tell Gordon to go, I think. Otherwise they'll need to get however many nominations are required and wait for a special conference.
I never realised how close together David Miliband's eyes are. Very excited to see how this develops. Also:
With James fuming but silent, his proposed path - a mass-resignation kicked off by an explicitly critical column
Literally Michael Foot.
I never realised how close together David Miliband's eyes are. Very excited to see how this develops. Also:

Literally Michael Foot.

Heh, thanks. I had missed that comparison.

Next update will be at some point today.

"No, Andrew, I don't mind saying it: it's time for David Miliband to put up or shut up."

Andrew Neil gave a cheeky raise of the eyebrows to the camera and swiveled his chair.

"Strong words from Diane. Michael? Your thoughts?"

Portillo cleared his throat before speaking, which Andrew strongly suspected was an attempt to buy him a few moments' time to think.

"I think, what we're seeing here," began Portillo, "is the inevitable free-fall of the Blair-Brown project. The Great Leader finally got into power, but the Party has realised he wasn't all he was cracked up to be."

Diane Abbott frowned in that way that only she could, and put a hand firmly on Michael's arm.

"I'm sorry, but this is nonsense. Gordon Brown is a fine leader, and he's governing this country-"

"-without the support of his foreign secretary," interjected Andrew.

"That's not true, Andrew, and you know it," Diane protested. Andrew winked, and spun his chair again.

"Another Labour firebrand - with a famous mum, no less - has put together his thoughts for us on this week's battle of the column inches. Here's Dan Hodges."

The producer signaled they were 'out', and the studio's TV began displaying Dan Hodges' lopsided face as the Labour blogger paced around a cheap-looking casino.

"...this week, David Miliband came very close to putting his cards on the table," Hodges said, leaning on a poker table and throwing some chips at the camera. Andrew chuckled.

"But," Hodges' face said from the screen as he inspected a hand of cards, "should he instead have gone all-in?"

Portillo had begun reading his copy of the Spectator.

"Labour has been wracked with division ever since the Brown Bounce faded with the Election That Wasn't. Since then, senior figures unhappy with Mr Brown have been chasing a straight - one that doesn't look like it's going to come up trumps."

As Hodges put on a blackjack-dealer waistcoat, Andrew took a sip of 'water' and considered whether they had gone a bit far with this one.

"...Mr Miliband's article wasn't too inflammatory at first," Hodges was saying, as Viva Las Vegas started to blare from the speakers, "but that last paragraph, with talk of 'questions over leadership' and 'renewed strength' - yow! The foreign secretary showed he had claws."

Andrew, no longer smirking, prayed that Hodges wasn't about to start playing with a cat. Mercifully, the next shot showed him leaning on a one-armed-bandit.

"What happened next surprised the Westminster village. Many expected a resignation, probably backed by other colleagues. But instead, silence. No leaping from the sinking ship - but no statements of 'full confidence in the Prime Minister' either."

Hodges pulled the lever, and two crude pictures of David Miliband's face appeared on the spooling wheels of the slot machine. The third, however, stopped on a picture of a grumpy-looking Gordon Brown.

"Why hasn't the PM sacked his foreign sec for this?" Hodges said in voice-over, "the Bottler Brown reputation is going to stick to him at this rate, and the days of the Iron Chancellor are clearly long gone."

Diane Abbott had spent the last few minutes in cool silence, not even nodding as - the live and present - Dan Hodges was brought to the sofa and wired for sound in preparation for his post-feature interview. Andrew shook Hodges' hands as his recorded form reappeared on the screen, now wearing something approaching normal clothing.

"But all bets were off when the dispute spilled into the rest of the media," Hodges said, throwing a stack of chips into the air, "and we saw all factions of the Labour Party turn this squabble into a Battle of the Sofas. Speaking of which, I think I need a sit down."

With a hackneyed 'kerching' sound effect, Hodges' VT came to an end, and the studio went live once more. Andrew gave a practiced grin.

"Dan Hodges, there, talking about how the chips are down now for Gordon Brown and David Miliband. He joins us now for that sit down, and - hopefully, Dan - a bit of a chat."

Hodges laughed.

"Yes, very happy to talk. Without the props this time."

Andrew nodded.

"You called it the 'Battle of the Sofas', what were the main engagements we saw this week?"

"Well, opening salvos were fired in the company of your good self," Hodges replied, "when Patricia Hewitt indicated she agreed with the thrust of the article."

"She stopped short of calling for Mr Brown to resign, though," said Andrew.

"True," said Hodges, "but Jacqui Smith stopped short of calling for Miliband to resign when she was doorstepped by the press this morning. This whole thing has been done in code so far - it's no surprise that it's going to continue that way."

"'Continue'?" prodded Andrew, "is it going to carry on?"

Hodges smiled.

"Well, time will tell, but after Ed Balls' bruising but unconvincing performance on the Today programme yesterday morning, it was no surprise that Alan Milburn - for it was he - turned up to provide a casual few words for Shaun Ley on The World At One."

"And a memorable few words they were, too," Andrew chuckled, "but surely now, after 72 hours of things looking like they might happen but failing to come to anything, the press pack will get tired of all this?"

"I'm not so sure. Nick Robinson -"

"Always one to enjoy a Labour scrap," Andrew pointed out.

"True, true, but nonetheless - Nick Robinson was talking up Jack Straw's ambiguous intervention earlier tonight."

"Is 'ambiguous' really the word? He sounded more bored than anything else."

Hodges smirked.

"He wasn't exactly brimming with excitement, no, but what both camps will be interested in is what he didn't say."

"'I support Mr Brown/Mr Miliband/Mr Delete-as-appropriate.'"

"Quite. Downing Street sources are saying Brown is furious about that, while there's also a sense that the Miliband camp have been surprised that a Big Beast has commented so early on."

Andrew reached onto the desk and picked up a copy of the Sun. Holding it up for all to see, he turned to Hodges.

"Well? Are they right?"

The headline of 'LABOUR CIVIL WAR' was about as loud as the printed word could be. Hodges grinned and shook his head.

"There's a battle going on, but not a war. Miliband's plan was clearly to provoke this kind of debate and sketch out dividing lines, then see if the time was right to strike. Things look a bit less certain than he had perhaps hoped, so I'd still say there's 50/50 odds that Brown will survive this completely unscathed."

"Would that be a good thing for the party?"


The quickness of Hodges' reply caught Andrew off-guard, and he gave the blogger a wry smile.

"And what makes you say that?"

"Gut instinct, nothing more."

"Dan Hodges, thank you for your thoughts. Do stay with us on the This Week sofa, we promise we won't do battle with you," Andrew oozed before glancing at his notes and saying to camera, "significantly quiet this week is Alistair Darling, who has not been seen or heard from since before the Miliband article was published."

"But he's on holiday!" said Diane vigorously.

"How convenient," drawled Portillo.

"No, Michael," insisted Diane, "he went away last week. The man is Chancellor, he's allowed to take a break."

"He's also allowed an opinion," Michael responded, "but I don't believe the present Labour cabinet have that right extended to them by the Great Leader."

Andrew interjected.

"Do you think David Miliband would be the right man to replace him, Michael?"

"The little I know of David Miliband has not impressed me very much, if I'm being completely honest. However, one usual talking point I won't repeat is his age - I think it would be a bit hypocritical of me to lambast a leadership hopeful for seeming too young..."

As Portillo trailed off with a smirk, Andrew heard a soft buzzing from his earpiece.

"I said it before, and I'll say it again," Diane droned, "he needs to put up, or -"

"Shut up, Diane," Andrew grinned, "because I've just been told by Auntie Beeb, sat helpfully in my left ear, that David Miliband has just this minute resigned from the cabinet."

A few moments of silence passed.

"I think Diane's speechless for once," joked Portillo, smiling like the cat who'd got the cream.

"I think I had better turn my phone on," said Hodges.

"Yes, I think we all should," said Andrew, "and as if this whole thing were planned - which it wasn't - we are all out of time here in the This Week studio. We don't plan to be back next week, what with the summer recess, but we didn't plan on being on tonight, either, so... who knows? Goodbye from Diane and Michael..."

Only Portillo managed a nodded farewell, as Diane was already wrestling with her BlackBerry.

"...and goodbye from our last guest, Dan Hodges. Dan, quickly, who do you want to be leader of the Labour Party?"

Quick as a flash, Hodges replied with a grin.

"Tony Blair."

"Well, you can't have him."

"That's very much the problem, Andrew."​
I'm genuinely sat at my desk, nodding.

I should point out to any foreign readers here that this is actually a fairly down to earth, restrained version of 'This Week', but Meadow has managed to grasp the shear inanity of the damn thing very, very effectively.

I know Hodges wasn't really a 'thing' prior to his transformation to Mr Ed Miliband Should Resign Yesterday, but I know that he was busking around back in '08, especially for things like this - the 'Tony Blair' response is basically vintage him.

Bravo - I think that you're going to send us down a different line of reasoning than we are used to, I cannot wait to read more.
I'm genuinely sat at my desk, nodding.

I should point out to any foreign readers here that this is actually a fairly down to earth, restrained version of 'This Week', but Meadow has managed to grasp the shear inanity of the damn thing very, very effectively.

I know Hodges wasn't really a 'thing' prior to his transformation to Mr Ed Miliband Should Resign Yesterday, but I know that he was busking around back in '08, especially for things like this - the 'Tony Blair' response is basically vintage him.

Bravo - I think that you're going to send us down a different line of reasoning than we are used to, I cannot wait to read more.

So did I :) Andrew Neil, Abbott & Portillo are written perfectly, I could also here them talking the words as I read them.

Looking forward to see more of this from Croydon's finest!!