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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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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