Another year over, and a new one just begun. There’s plenty to look forward to in 2018, not least the continued existence of Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful. Co-hosted with radio presenter Geoff Lloyd, the show sees the former leader of the Labour Party count his blessings each week – from the mundane to the momentous – and invite experts to discuss ideas that could improve the world. For example, the first episode, launched last October, floated the notion of Universal Basic Income, which means a government guarantees its citizens a free, non-means-tested income. To keep things breezy, they also invite guest comedians to concoct even more daring ideas. The podcast has helped to turn Ed, who comes across as laidback and funny, into something of a cult figure (he’s big on Twitter now too). Here, then, are the reasons he’s feel vibey about the coming 12 months.
I’m liberated from the shackles of leadership
“The funny thing about this is that I haven’t changed my personality. I’m the same person I was before. I’ve just got more opportunity to show it. The leadership is a highly responsible job where you have to weigh every word. Partly, if you’re the leader of the Labour Party, you’re operating in a political war zone. You’ve got the newspapers and others willing to jump on every word. Now, I freely acknowledge that I probably felt too constrained by that. I think there definitely are objective constraints – even on Jeremy Corbyn, who is in a way much freer than I was. He can’t do a tweet where he says, ‘Donald Trump is an absolute moron,’ which I can do. I suppose that’s something I’ve learned through doing this and since stepping down as leader: to be less constrained.”
The Tories are adopting my policies
“I roll my eyes when [I see that the tabloids champion the Conservatives’ energy cap yet derided the idea when I suggested it]. When your opponents adopt your ideas, it’s a compliment. There’s now widespread agreement about inequality being a problem. I did a speech in 2011 about predatory capitalism and predatory companies; it was all very controversial at the time, but you wouldn’t find anyone now who says that there aren’t predators. Your opponents embracing your agenda is sort of progress. It’s funny because lots of people say, ‘Don’t you gnash your teeth and think, “Those bastards!”, but I suppose I’m just so used to it. That’s The Daily Mail, that’s The Sun. That’s what they do. You’ve gotta deal with it. That’s the reality I was dealing with every day for five years.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s success is inspiring
“I don’t feel jealous of Corbyn’s success. If you’re thinking about what happened at the General Election 2017, one should feel that, actually, you tip your hat to Jeremy Corbyn for what he achieved and the way he inspired lots of young people to get engaged with politics. He tapped into something because of who he was because of his political career, because people admired the fact that he’d been consistent for such a long time. Because of the moment we were in, a bit, too. There was no-one more pleased than me when that exit poll came out. It wasn’t the defeat that a lot of people had predicted. That’s a real reason to be optimistic.
Trump is just an anomaly
“I’m not personally in favour of the state visit going ahead. I fear it will go ahead and we should have the biggest protest that the country’s ever seen to make clear what people think of him and what he stands for. Theresa May made a terrible mistake from the beginning. Because we’re leaving the European Union, she decided that the right strategy was to cosy up to Trump and buy his chlorinated chicken. I think that was the wrong strategy. If you think about Angela Merkel, she has been much more arm’s length [with Trump] from the start. She was like, ‘Okay, he’s won, but we’ve got our values and we’ve go to defend those values.’ She’s not falling over herself to welcome him to Berlin and all that. I mean, what are we going to get out of it? I don’t think we’re going to get anything out of it. In the end, though, America is going to come back to working with the international community properly when Trump goes. On climate change, the Middle East, what he did in relation to Jerusalem – he’s out there on his own, on the fringes.”
The rightwing tabloids’ power is waning
“These people are worried. Look at the Mail’s campaign against Stop Funding Hate, which is people saying to advertisers that they should stop advertising with the Mail and The Sun. They’re worried, because they’re worried about the power of the consumer to go elsewhere. They’re worried about non-traditional media. I think that is a good thing. But don’t underestimate these people. Never underestimate them. These are grim, grim people. They are absolutely ruthless in pursuing their agenda. They will try to monster their opponents, whoever they are. And they have no ethics. Jeremy was able to say in his conference speech, ‘They had 14 pages about me being a terrorist – they’ll have to have 28 next time.’ In a way, that called their bluff. But they do seep into the bloodstream. Their power is waning, but it hasn’t ended.”
– ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ is available to download on iTunes