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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.