For all his love of American politics, Ed Miliband has not flown to Florida to watch the Republican convention. Only one member of Labour’s high command has been sent out to keep an eye on the rogues, but the rest view the gathering with humorous contempt. There is a tendency to picture the event as a political freak show where the high priests of sado-austerity are cheered on by Tea Party fruitcakes. Mr Miliband may sometimes struggle to articulate what he is for in politics, but he certainly knows what he’s against – and most of it can be embodied by the people on stage in Tampa.
But this time, Labour and the Republicans have more in common than either party would like to admit. Both have chosen relatively dull leaders, but are hoping to fight an election based on the failure of their rivals. And their opponents, David Cameron and Barack Obama, are using similar tactics: massively increasing the debt while promising (and failing) to halve the deficit within one term. They use cheery phrases (“we’re all in this together”) but govern an angry nation. For Cameron and Obama, a simple rule applies. If their next election is fought on personality, they win. If it’s fought on economics, they lose.
Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech got off to a barnstorming start. “Mr Chairman and delegates, I accept your nomination for President of the United States!”, he boomed. During Romney’s last major public appearance, he’d told the audience the next President of the United States was going to be his running mate Paul Ryan. So by last night he’d clearly decided to raise his game, and his sights.
Though when I say boomed, that’s not strictly accurate. As he delivered his opening line he actually tipped his head to one side in a slightly coquettish way, and smiled humbly. Humility was to form a key part of Mitt Romney’s speech. In fact he was so at pains to come across as a humble man from humble origins there where times I started to think the GOP had selected Uriah Heap to take on Barack Obama.
Romney had a bit of a tough childhood. Or rather, his parents did. His father was a Mexican refugee, his mother a beautiful young actress (who in an inversion of convention, ran away from Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming a Mormon). There were he said, “too many long hours and weekends working.
A question one Radio 4 listener asked about the bloodline between Jesus and King David raised a wider genealogical issue. How many generations does it take before someone alive today is the ancestor of everyone on the planet?
Listeners to the More or Less programme on Radio 4 have been challenging me to answer any fiendish question they can throw at me.
A question about Jesus’s genealogy was rather interesting and the answer has astounding ramifications.
The Bible says Jesus was a descendant of King David. But with 1,000 years between them, and since King David’s son Solomon was said to have had about 1,000 wives and mistresses, couldn’t many of Jesus’s peers in Holy Land have claimed the same royal ancestor?
Theory tells us that not only would all of Jesus’s contemporaries be descended from King David, but that this would probably be the case even if Solomon had been into monogamy.
We can make this sort of prediction because over the past 15 years or so, these ideas have been studied as part of the research into understanding patterns in our own genome.