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What happened when Russell Brand interviewed Ed Miliband?

"You gotta answer it, mate."

Milibrand has landed.

A couple of days ago, Ed Miliband discovered that people were finding this election campaign too "boring", so decided to go round to everyone’s favourite Twitter-happy vagabond Jesus Russell Brand's house to make it more interesting.

For the past 24 hours, a bizarre online audience of political journalists on full pre-snark mode combined with the 1,091,466 YouTube subscribers to Brand’s festival of gonzo gurning, The Trews, have been on tenterhooks waiting for the moment that could make or break the election.

Brand promised it at lunchtime. But when do scarecrow Del Boy lotharios have lunch, the nation cried? At last, the interview appeared, and unsurprisingly it’s 15 minutes of questions low in content and high in syllables, with answers from the Labour leader peppered with incongruous glottal stops and dropped tees and aitches.

It takes just 40 seconds for Brand, sitting uncomfortably close to Miliband on his kitchen sofa with a candle burning ominously in the background, to deploy the phrase “unelected powerful elites”, and we’re off.

Thankfully, Miliband’s linguistic Blairite turns – “it’s sorta one rule for the richest”; “it’s just, like, wrong”; “Northern Rock an’ all tha’”; “Yeah we gotta deal with that”; “it ain’t gonna be like that” – don’t mean he panders to his interviewer’s conspiracy-fuelled ramblings.

Unafraid of defending the role of the establishment in making change, he even braves wearing a tie in Brand’s quarters. A dark, glossy, skinny affair. Appropriate, really.

Plus Miliband is unafraid to make the shocking admission: “I’m not sure I’d look so good with a pint on my head.”

He insists he is not “looking for euphoria” and simple solutions, making the case for progress coming from both people and politics. “It’s not about edgy,” is an immortal line. You coulda fooled me, Ed.

At one point, he shoots Brand a beautiful glance of soft disdain usually reserved for extraordinary circumstances, like being seated next to Myleene Klass. “I hope it doesn’t sound adolescent...” begins Brand. “I’m sure it won’t,” blinks Ed.

But fear not, Miliband does agree with Brand on the generally-held evils of this world, like Amazon and the Murdoch press, calling the latter “less powerful than they used to be”. Perhaps the only telling moment of the interview. Apart from when Miliband does an accomplished ‘am I right?’ full body shrug. One for the end of his next conference speech, I reckon:
 

Eyyy, buddy.

An unrevealing interview, all in all. And one that didn’t quite end in a Labour endorsement from the rabid non-voter, as was rumoured. But at least we got to hear Miliband’s street voice. And see inside yet another kitchen.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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