Miliband — Two brothers but only one ‘L’

With Gordon Brown gone, the Labour leadership contest was on. The first candidate to announce was former foreign secretary David Miliband. Then a few days later his brother, former energy secretary Ed, announced that he would also stand.

It’s a contest that’s been brewing for a while. In the Times, Damian Whitworth reports:

At a Labour conference a few years ago, delegates appeared sporting “my favourite Miliband” badges. Some stated that their preferred Miliband was David. Others said Ed. Almost as popular were badges saying “My favourite Miliband is Ralph”, a reference to the brothers’ late father, a towering intellectual figure on the Left. The whole business started getting silly when delegates wore badges proclaiming: “My favourite Miliband is the Steve Miller band”.

Journalists have dubbed it a Cain and Abel contest. And the Guardian has enlisted psychologist Teri Apter to explain the roots of sibling rivalry: "Many older siblings experience the birth of a younger sibling — particularly one of the same sex — as traumatic displacement; suddenly people are cooing over someone else; your parents ‘think this ugly, messy, squirming creature is a thing of beauty."

Apart from the sibling rivalry issue, the other big topic is the number of ‘l’s in Miliband. On Twitter the spelling scolds are already on patrol. DannyJPalmer tweets: "It’s spelled Miliband not Milliband you fools! It only has one L. #spellingnazi" while crispyduckster tweets: "fantastic – milliband [sp] is tweeting trend uk, whereas miliband [correct spelling] is not" (try searching for trending topics here).

Spelling is not just an issue for Twitter users. The Age, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and the BBC have all added an extra ‘l’ at some point. The Mirror online once managed to use both spellings in the garbled headline "Gordon Brown comes out in support of David Milliband has come out in support of Miliband".

And then there are the jokes. Along with the endless "Steve Miliband" (Steve Miller Band) gags is this one: "How many Miliband brothers does it take to change a lightbulb? A: only one but you’ll probably have two show up anyway."

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