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.

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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.

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

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