Ed Miliband speaks to supporters at Redbridge on May 1, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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This week revealed the real Ed

By presenting himself to voters as who he truly is, the Labour leader has given himself a chance of winning their respect and understanding. 

From the White House to Westminster, Ed Miliband presented himself this week to the world as the man he truly is - a smart, slightly geeky politician who cares about big problems and knows how to fix them.

Politicians can be respected, feared, liked or trusted for a host of reasons. But key to almost any politician's success in connecting with the electorate is their authenticity. To my mind the moment George W. Bush beat John Kerry was actually in their first debate when he said: "I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions I've made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand. People out there listening know what I believe." That level of authenticity and consistency was powerful enough to re-elect a man in the middle of a losing war with a weak economy. It is that strength of clarity that the best politicians embody.

For the earlier attempt to sell Ed Miliband as "a man of the people" (the semi-fictitious "Mr Normal" effort) failed. But it is not too late to present Ed to the electorate as who he truly is - a very smart, deeply honest politician who cares deeply about tackling inequality and changing the economy fundamentally so that society itself is transformed.

As Mark Ferguson rightly noted, this meant not just presenting his strengths but also, in that wonderful maxim of veteran politico Chris Matthews, "hanging a lantern on his problem" and owning up to his own presentational weaknesses. By ceding this ground to Cameron he has given away nothing that he could have won anyway and stands to gain much in terms of authenticity and thus connection with the electorate in the months to come.

But today's speech was about more then political positioning. There was a serious point too. Miliband hit on a resonant insight, that of politics having become "a game that fewer and fewer people are watching, or believing." This is something previous Fabian Society research has shown: "Politics is a game played by an out of touch elite who live on another planet" was one of the main criticisms people made of politicians. The solution people tend to reach for is of more representative politicians, drawn from a broader pool than the professional political classes. But Labour’s leaders are who they are: Andy Burnham recently recognised “we’re the professional politician generation”.

So being authentic is a wise play, and one that can position Miliband as a different type of political leader, for an age when people don’t believe in political leadership. Miliband must win back trust – and his pledge to give power away to people is the right policy agenda to match his personal leadership pitch. But being authentic is a high stakes game, with a special responsibility then to walk the walk. This is a Miliband who has learned the danger of dining out on taking on Murdoch only to then sit down with his paper. He knows now, as he ever did, he’s best at his boldest.

This week we saw the Ed Miliband that rejects the gimmicks of Cameron's hug-a-huskie and instead speaks with President Obama about Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan. This is the Ed that's ready for Number 10.

By presenting Ed to the British people as who he actually is, as was the case with the 2012 One Nation speech, or indeed the Redbridge launch of the local and European election campaigns, Ed can win back voters' respect and understanding by being his own man.

Marcus Roberts is the deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society and served as Field Director of Ed Miliband's leadership campaign.

Marcus Roberts is an executive project director at YouGov. 

HEINZ BAUMANN/GALLERY STOCK
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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad