Ed Miliband, accompanied by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, meeting Barack Obama at the White House earlier today. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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What Miliband and Obama talked about

The pair met for 25 minutes at the White House and discussed issues including the economy, climate change and the Scottish referendum. 

To the undoubted relief of Labour, Ed Miliband got his meeting with Barack Obama (and a bit more than a "brush-by"). The pair talked at the White House for 25 minutes after Obama joined Miliband's discussion with National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Douglas Alexander, Labour strategist Stewart Wood and Miliband's chief of staff Tim Livesey were also present. 

For all the inevitable cynicism around the meeting, a photo with the US president ten months before a general election will do the Labour leader no harm, and likely some good. Indeed, as he told British foreign correspondents before the meeting: "I am going because I want to be prime minister of Britain in less than ten months and because it is incredibly important - and it is what I think the British people would want - to have a prime minister who works closely with the United States."

Here's the Labour readout of the meeting: 

Ed Miliband today met President Barack Obama for talks in the White House.

The Leader of the Opposition and the President discussed a range of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, Gaza, and the future of the European Union.

The pair also discussed the economy, climate change & the approaching referendum in Scotland.

The meeting lasted around 25 minutes.

Mr. Miliband also met the President's National Security Advisor Susan Rice and held talks with senior politicians in Washington.

And here's the White House's:

President Obama joined National Security Advisor Rice's meeting today with Mr. Ed Miliband, leader of the United Kingdom's opposition Labour Party. Mr Miliband was meeting with Ambassador Rice to discuss issues of shared concern, including the situations in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and Iraq. The President and Mr. Miliband affirmed the strong ties that bind the United States and the United Kingdom. The President and Mr. Miliband met previously during the President's visit to London in May 2011.

Earlier in the day, Miliband gave a seminar at the Centre for American Progress (Obama's favourite think-tank) attended by senior US figures, including Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and Jason Furman, one of the US president's senior economic advisers. In his opening remarks on the MH17 shooting, Miliband said: 

“This is the moment for a strong, determined and outward-looking EU to step up to its responsibilities.

“Europe and America must stand together as they have at crucial moments in the past.

“As President Obama made clear in his state visit to the UK in 2011, Europe is a cornerstone of US global engagement. Together we are the most potent catalyst for global action that there is in the world today.

“In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of flight MH17 we must again be that catalyst for global solidarity and decisive action.

“And to achieve those ends this we need Britain at the heart of a reformed and resolute EU.

“Nothing could illustrate more starkly than the need for European and American partnership than the cloud cast globally from the events in the skies in Ukraine.

“Britain in Europe working in partnership with America is not only in all our interests, it is the best way to promote stability and prosperity across the globe.”

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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