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It's Ed Miliband's 2017 general election campaign that we should remember

The former Labour leader's sassiness, seemingly lost during the 2015 general election, returned in time for his 2017 campaign.

While you were all looking at Jeremy Corbyn, another (former) Labour leader was having a great campaign.

A week before the Easter holiday, as Theresa May had planned to go back on her promise not to call an early election but hadn’t told the country yet, Ed Miliband was already prepared.

Since he came back in the spotlight after a year of relative silence following his harrowing loss in the 2015 general election, Ed Miliband has gained fans among political nerds for his sassy tweets and spotting him around the capital has become the new trend among young Londoners, who often feature him on excited Snapchats. The US website Jezebel even featured his photo after a passionate anti-Trump speech he gave in the Commons in January, asking “Would have sex with that appalled British MP?”

In April, as a guest on the Last Leg show, he avenged his 2015 self by re-shooting the infamous “bacon sandwich photo”, with a lot more swag: leather jacket, motorcycle and sunglasses, he made that sandwich respect him this time. Hell yeah.

He also formed in own band – the MiliBand – and cursed live on TV. Move along, Jez, Sassy Ed’s back.

On the campaign trail to be reelected as the MP for Doncaster North, Miliband enlightened the Facebook feeds of his Milifans, posting daily selfies with his constituents, offering photos of his “campaign haircut” and self-deprecating humour.


Ed Miliband via Facebook

He also made great use of the “cool bacon sandwich photo” while meeting with local bikers.


Ed Miliband via Facebook

It was all fun and games, but Ed never forgot to slag off his opponents. He called Theresa May “weak and feeble and spineless” over climate change and condemned her attitude toward US president Donald Trump.

After the Prime minister decided not to take part in any TV debate, Ed put his sassiness into action, tweeting to the West End Job Centre:

But Ed’s campaign culminated on 2 May, when he encountered a Doncaster local in need while canvassing. “Out canvassing with ED MILLIBAND [sic] and he starts mowing the lawn for a lady (we have her vote!)” Labour canvasser Jayne Naphtali posted on Facebook. Ed Miliband then shared the post, praising “Labour’s grassroot strategy in action”, on his Facebook page and Twitter account. Trust Ed never to miss a pun.

“He really did mow the lawn,” another canvasser confirmed on Twitter, offering more of a close-up.

Ed Miliband, Doncaster's own handyman. Yet another meme was born.

On 7 June, the “lawn-mowing” story got a happy ending, as the local lady and her lawn mower proudly posed with an “Ed Miliband for Labour” poster and the man himself. Many Labour supporters may hope that his campaign, too, sees a happy ending tonight. If only to soothe them on social media after a Tory victory.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

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