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Just What Is an 'Ordinary Geek'?

Ed Miliband is the depressing poster boy for a new breed of British man-child.
October 1, 2012, 2:30pm

All this week, the annual Labour Party Conference will be taking place in the good, old-fashioned, salt of the earth, rain 'n' guns, post-industrial haven of Manchester. The party has been trying to take a big left turn for a while now, but its attempts thus far have less resembled some feral kids pulling class war donuts on the front lawn of some Tory-owned Manor than they have a lorry driver sleepily gliding in for a late-night wank break in a service station carpark.

Ed Miliband is still doing his squatter's rights routine as the leader of the party and, like all faltering leaders of the opposition, his team are desperately trying to rebrand him. How are they doing this? Are they trying to portray him as a Paddy Ashdown-esque man of action who's softened over the years? Nope. A pre-comeback William Hague-style pints and judo man? Nope. Alright, what about a "quiet man who's turning up the volume", as Iain Duncan Smith so poignantly described himself during his tenure as Conservative leader? Nah, not even that.

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The Labour Party spin kings have decided that our man's best chance at a new steez is as an "ordinary geek". Not exactly Putin shooting a whale with a crossbow from a helicopter, is it?

Maybe it's a good shout, though. Politically, alpha males have been having a hard time of it for a while now, war vet and all-American hero John McCain getting trounced by a law student from Hawaii in 2008 and Colonel Gaddafi finding himself on the wrong end of a metal pipe enema after years of poncing about in military outfits with his crew of female bodyguards. Maybe in an era when Ed Sheeran wields more power than Bruce Springsteen, a lame-o like Miliband is the man our country actually wants to lead us nervously, shyly towards a new Britain.

There's one problem with this persona, though – what the fuck is an "ordinary geek", exactly? Surely being a geek implies you exist at the fringes of society, forced by its outdated views of masculinity into a half-life of role-playing games and moshing to Muse songs alone in your bedroom? Can a geek really be "ordinary" when the very concept suggests something out of the ordinary?

I think so. I think there is such a thing as an "ordinary geek", and it's not what you think it is. But you're right about one thing: You wouldn't you want any of these bros fighting your side in the War Room.

In 2012, an ordinary geek is not somebody like Stephen Hawking or Seth from The OC, it's a person like Theo Walcott or Russell Howard. Nice lads who do their coursework and love their mums. They don't play RPGs, because they're a bit weird, aren't they? They much prefer to play as Barcelona on Fifa than as a fire-breathing Orc. Do they listen to progressive rock and/or Autechre as so many of their fathers did before them? Nah, not really their thing; our everyman nerd of today probably likes "a bit of everything", which, disappointingly, doesn't mean grindcore, gabba or Ryuichi Sakamoto, as much as it does MJ, Disney pop and, before a particularly wild night down O'Neill's, Example.

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Essentially, an "ordinary geek" is somebody who does all the things that regular geeks do, like extra homework and St John's Ambulance volunteering, but they don't do this because of their obsessive tendencies or cut-throat desire to go to a university where their intellect will get them laid. They do it because they are pushover conformists rather than savants. They get all A*'s in their GCSEs, yet you'll never hear them say anything interesting. They've read Crime & Punishment, they could tell you what it's about, but they have no idea what it's actually about. They're identikits with personalities like A-level revision books and senses of humour like those adverts for Aussie shampoo you see on the tube.

Sure, they're more than capable of keeping a nation ticking over. They could probably get the trains running on time – your nan might like them. But when their job is essentially to keep the shit as far away from the fan as possible, are they going to be able to improvise their way out of the mess when things reach crisis point? Of course they fucking aren't.

There's a theory that suggests that one of the reasons Winston Churchill managed to guide Britain through the war was because he was essentially not of sound mind. That he suffered from what most reality TV stars would probably now call bipolar disorder, and the crushing lows and arrogant delusions that accompany that condition were essentially what made him refuse to give in when a sane person may have looked to compromise.

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I'm not saying that every country needs a mood-swinging lunatic in charge – the last thing we want is someone like Jeffrey Archer or Wiley with their finger on the red button – but leadership takes balls, not normality. The Milibands, Cameron, Clegg, it's been said before, but they really are all the same guy. The guy who'd come round your house and call your Mum "Mrs", the guy who'd say something like "No thanks, I don't want to kill myself" if you offered him a toke on a joint.

Ed Miliband's decision to market himself as something inherently uninspiring is indicative of everything that's wrong with British politics. The lack of inspiration, the blandness, the collusion, the consensus views and the sheer dearth of anybody willing to take a fucking stand. Cameron might have more Boden slick, Clegg might be on some Mr Smith Goes To Washington swag, but, essentially, they're all trying to be as uninteresting as possible in case they upset anyone.

At the risk of sounding like an American politican or a pick-up artist, being a geek is not a good thing. Obviously, being intelligent, thorough and passionate about your interests are all fine qualities to have. Submissiveness and indecision, on the other hand, are not. Great leaders are people who are willing to take risks, ones who don't really care about public perception and will plough through regardless. Now the great hope of the left's best hope at reinvigorating his people is talking about what a loser he is.

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Get used to life in the political friend zone, Ed.

Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive

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