They got it half right: there were lots of 'ordinary' people there, though the rows of people providing Miliband's backdrop for the TV cameras were carefully selected to provide a multicultural, all-ages, sympathetic representation. I have to say that the event didn't come across as completely staged. There were plenty of local Labour people, and a vast number of pushy young men in cheap suits umbilically attached to their BlackBerries, but the questions were decent and honest: you could tell it was The Dark Place because everyone over 40 was convinced that we've got the crime levels of 1970s New York and that prisons are indistinguishable from high-end health farms.
What did impress me about Ed M. was that he speaks human very fluently, perhaps even as a first language. Of course he's highly-trained in not causing offence and sounding sympathetic even when he isn't, but I was convinced. Partly because he didn't play the usual political games. Apart from one reference to treating bankers who rip off the state the same as benefit cheats, he refrained from pressing hot buttons or descending into soundbites. I kept my hand up but couldn't get a question in.
I am - as everyone should be - far to the left of Ed, but I was convinced that he's a decent, thoughtful man who has perhaps learned the lessons of Labour's rise and fall to some extent. Whether that's enough to win an election, I'm not sure.
The other thing I learned is that he has a huge range of funny faces. Steve Bell thinks he has the eyes of a killer panda, whereas I thought he looked a little like Fozzy Bear.
My pictures are here, but here are the best ones. Click to enlarge.
I rather like this one - good lighting.
One for the Midlanders: TV's very own Patrick Burns
The Labour Party has posted film of the event here: interesting the way it's been edited for their purposes.