Ed Miliband, late of the Labour leadership. Photo: Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool /Getty Images
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The reason I liked Ed was the same reason that everyone else thought he was useless

He talked openly and knowledgeably until Peter Hitchens got on to him about cod.

Poor, dejected losers, the politicians who no longer have seats or parties to run, who must not cry. It is only human to feel sorry for them. And I do. Being sacked in public is hard.

Some of them wander around in a daze for months, when they’re not shouting at their equally dazed staff about their empty diaries. And some of them have to re-enter the world. On foot. Their drivers are taken away. There were many tales in 1997 of silly Tories trying to get on the Tube and having no idea how to buy a ticket. Vince Cable will have a Freedom Pass, at least.

Ed’s “Hell, yes, I’m tough enough” statement is now reduced to being one of my 14-year-old’s favourite Vines – a Vine for an epitaph.

I did like him when I met him, years ago. He was smart, funny – sweet, even. But the main reason I liked him was the reason that other people didn’t. He talked openly and knowledgeably until Peter Hitchens, whom I am extremely fond of, got on to one of his issues. Peter’s “issues” require an entire tome but that night it was EU fishing policy.

This is the kind of subject that simply induces me to fall into a trance but Peter savaged Ed Miliband about stocks of cod. Ed said something like, “I don’t know much about this but I will go and find out.”

That impressed me – a politician admitting that he didn’t know something – but everyone else concluded then and there that he was useless. I remember saying, “I think he will be somebody in the Labour Party.” That the thing he would be was the leader never entered my head.

I liked the way he listened and considered things. When I banged into him very late at night in a bar, I asked him how he stayed up so late and got up so early. It’s not as if I expected him to pull out a wrap of anything illicit (although he does have that blissed-out look, on occasion). It’s more that I can’t understand how so many of them stay loved-up on the process: on the inner workings of the party.

But they’re different from us. We had an audience with David that year, too, and he was more important. My editor’s suite was at the top of the Hilton in Manchester. Four TVs, leather loungers, chrome. Loads of remote controls. Totally Footballers’ Wives decor. The guys were uncomfortable.

“What is that, Suzanne?” one of them asked me, pointing at the table. It was a flower arrangement. The unlikeliest forms of modernity frightened my colleagues.

In bounded David Miliband, wary, angular and media-trained to the hilt. Lots of first names, looking straight into your eyes, the weird handshake or semi-grope thing they do.

Everyone agreed that he wanted power. None of us then had any idea Ed would take that from him. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 14 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory triumph

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.