David Axelrod attends a Gala Benefit For Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago on April 20, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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David Axelrod: victory for Miliband will "send a message around the world"

What the Obama strategist told Labour during his visit to London. 

Labour's star signing David Axelrod has been in Westminster this week for his first face-to-face meetings with Ed Miliband on the role he will play in the party's general election campaign. Claims that the former Obama strategist will give Miliband a "makeover" are, I'm told, wide of the mark. A Labour source said: "You don't hire David Axelrod to tell you what colour tie to wear." 

Instead, his discussions with Labour have focused on strategy, polling and messaging. After a one-on-one meeting with Miliband yesterday, he met with other senior shadow cabinet members, including Harriet Harman, Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Michael Dugher, Sadiq Khan, Jon Cruddas and Yvette Cooper. He later had dinner with Miliband and his wife at their home accompanied by fellow Obama staffer Larry Grisolano. 

After a meeting this morning with the full shadow cabinet, he held further talks on digital and field operations followed by a Q&A with Labour staff at Brewer's Green. 

He told the party that victory for Ed Miliband in 2015 "would send a message around the world" and that was why he was "proud to have been asked" to do the job. He added: "There is a lot of alienation and anger among voters because of how the economy is working...We need to offer solutions."

Noting that he could earn far more working elsewhere, he said he was attracted to Miliband as a progressive radical who understood the need to break with "trickle-down economics" in order to restore the link between the growth of national economies and of family finances. "People are working harder and getting nowhere," he told the shadow cabinet. 

The Democrats and Labour have "different visions" to their opponents, he emphasised, and, for this reason, 2015 would be a "big, important election". Axelrod, it is clear, would not be here if he did not believe Miliband could win it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood