Miliband is the next Clarkson (not)

Asking him if he was running for the leadership was a bit like asking Cameron if he'd taken cocaine.

David Miliband has just started writing for GQ and his first column appears this month. He's written a fairly fulsome review of Honda's low-emission Civic Hybrid - "Everyone thinks they go the speed of milk floats, but they're actually pretty zippy" - and while admitting that his only qualification for automotive criticism is getting a Scalextric for his tenth birthday - "I'm not sure I am cut out to be the next Jeremy Clarkson" - he doesn't forget to take a sideswipe at David Cameron (who, like Miliband, likes to drive a Toyota Prius).

I met him for lunch recently, and although everything was off the record, the minute I sat down I asked him to deny that he was going to run for the Labour leadership, just so I didn't feel left out. I knew this was a bit like asking Cameron if he'd ever taken cocaine, but seeing that I'd done that as well, it would have been an abnegation of duty not to. Charming and conciliatory man that he is, Miliband duly obliged, and although I didn't believe him at the time, he'd obviously have to be on a suicide mission to change his mind.

But isn't there anyone out there prepared to be (or at least ride) a stalking horse? In all the pieces I've read in the past few weeks about the atmosphere in the Labour Party, the most popular adjective appears to be febrile. Frankly, I think we need a bit of recklessness.

Private madness

I travelled a lot last week, including a relatively short trip to Bedford. I went by train, a mode of transport I always try and avoid.

My most enervating train ride this year involved a trip to Derby, although the Bedford trip wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was on time, and not as wildly expensive as most train journeys, but I would have felt mightily short-changed if I'd made the mistake of travelling first class. Now, while I realise that being a reader of this magazine might morally preclude you from travelling first class, the benefits weren't just negligible, they simply didn't exist. The seats were the same (uncomfortable), as was the food (practically inedible) and the livery (a sort of special-needs Ikea).

Back in the Eighties I used to get in a terrible bate when the latest privatisation was announced, as there was rarely a good reason for it, and when John Major privatised the railways in 1993, it seemed like the final straw (for the Tories, it certainly was).

Now I learn that government subsidies to the private railway sector last year totalled £6bn. In case you were interested in the last year of British Rail, the cost to the taxpayer was less than £2bn.

Blair and Clough

I've just finished the best book I've read all year, The Damned Utd by David Peace, the novel about the 44 days that Brian Clough was in charge of Leeds United.

It is, like every piece of printed matter right now, being adapted for a film by the very brilliant Peter Morgan, the writer of The Queen, The Deal, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon, etc. The book is written in such an economical, episodic way that Morgan could probably have penned it over a long weekend (the first draft of The Queen apparently took a week). Stephen Frears is again directing, while Cloughie himself is being played by Tony Blair. Or at least the man who portrayed him in both The Deal and The Queen, Michael Sheen.

Cheap at the price

En route to Mumbai a few weeks ago, for the Kitab literature and media festival, John Kampfner and I had an 11-hour stopover in Sri Lanka, a paradise that continues to be fractured by the Tamil insurrection in the north of the island. There are still armed soldiers on most street corners, giving this normally sedate nation a feeling of tension.

As our group waited in the lounge for our flight to India, happy to be moving on, we indulged ourselves. I took some indiscreet photographs of the NS editor. In them he is having a head massage, with a glass of champagne in one hand and a copy of the National Enquirer in the other. Price on application.

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ. His book "Mr Jones's Rules for the Modern Man" will be published in paperback on 31 May by Hodder & Stoughton (£7.99)

This article first appeared in the 14 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, What now?