Show Hide image

11 things we've learnt from the BuzzFeed interview with Ed Miliband

A list about a BuzzFeed article not written as a list.

Photo: Getty

1. Chunky fonts and black-and-white filters make a montage of giant pictures of Ed Miliband a surprising design hit.

See the remarkably good-looking interview here.

2. He won't read this article.

Ed Miliband told BuzzFeed:

It’s always a good idea not to read the newspapers... I don’t read much British news. You get a lot of advice in the newspapers about what you should do. It’s much more important to follow your own path and stick to your own path. I’ve made that a rule in the last three and a half years.

3. He relies on his aides and a US news aggregator for keeping up with current affairs.

The interview reveals:

... he really means the part about ignoring the news. There are no TV screens showing rolling news channels in his office and he has no newspapers delivered to his home. Instead he relies on aides to summarise what’s going on in the world.

Miliband, wearing a red tie and with his BlackBerry on the table, says his favourite news website is RealClearPolitics, an American site that aggregates political news stories, where he keeps up with what he sees as a new global politics of inequality. 

4. He's wary of Twitter.

The Labour leader admits to a  “decidedly mixed record” on the social media site. In January 2012, he tweeted about the death of Bob Holness, the host of Blockbusters, but misspelt the programme's name in an embarrassing gaffe as "Blackbusters".

5. He says people think he's "weird" because he's on track to becoming PM.

The press people who don’t like us have been saying that [I'm weird] for some time. It comes with the territory. I think the heart of this is people think we are in a position to win the election and there are some people who don’t want us to win this election.

6.  He's trying to tackle the Ukip problem by saying he understands their supporters.

The vast, vast majority of people who voted UKIP are concerned for understandable reasons. It’s not about prejudice. It’s about genuine concern about the country having changed.

7. He's tentatively talking about immigration.

 The interview reports that he insists his party must move away from the idea that "if you’re concerned about immigration you’re prejudiced".

8. He's still defending his 'cost-of-living crisis' slogan.

It's not defunct, he insists: 

Any good news in the economy is a good thing, any time things get better is a good thing,” he insists. “But as I go around the country and talk to people and they will say – I’m on a short hours contract, I can’t make ends meet, I’m worried about my son or daughter getting a house.

Even people who consider themselves relatively well off are saying where is this country going and what’s in it for me. Somewhere along the way ordinary working people who were struggling got left behind. It started before the financial crisis – or you could date this before the financial crisis. I personally think it’s got a lot worse under this government.

9. He's taking heart from what he sees as the rise of the global left.

In the US version of the interview, which describes Miliband as "an unapologetically pro-American figure", he says:

There’s massive change happening in our country: globalization and opening up of the world and that has big profound economic and social implications... Fundamentally this goes to what our campaign in 2015 and what Obama 2012 share in common: how to restore what the U.S. would call the American dream, with a strong middle class.

If you look at some of the debates in America about inequality … President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio are talking about similar things.

10. Even his own children aren't supporters...

... Of his favourite football team, Leeds United. His two sons are apparently more interested in Arsenal.

11. He chillaxes too.

In an echo of the PM admitting his addiction to online app game Angry Birds, he tells BuzzFeed his favourite diversion is the Major League Baseball app on his iPad.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.