Ed Miliband has declared he’s “not a Centrist Dad” and praised Jeremy Corbyn for mobilising young voters and proving his doubters wrong.
In an interview for HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, the former Labour leader joked that the label – applied to middle-aged fathers who patronise Corbyn followers – could not be applied to himself.
Dad-of-two Miliband, who now hosts his own weekly ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ podcast, also revealed:
he turned down an invitation to appear on the Great British Bake-Off
a Cabinet minister had told him his tweet attacking the Government’s Brexit “piss up in a brewery” chaos was “very restrained”
his office had rejected a request to appear in a Walkers’ Crisps advert with Gary Lineker
he saw Brexit as a ‘mandate’ for a Labour government to radically change Britain.
Miliband said that the dramatic upswing in young voters in the June general election had been sparked by their ‘shock’ at the Brexit referendum and by Corbyn’s fresh appeal.
“One of the reasons for that was the way Jeremy mobilised young people. I think that is a massive positive,” he said.
“I am not a ‘centrist Dad’. I think the sense of the desire for change among young people, the sense of ‘we want big things to be different’, whether it’s on tuition fees or climate change or inequality is incredibly positive.
“Jeremy’s galvanizing young people in politics is a remarkable success, it is a reason to be cheerful. There were people who were more or less sceptical about Jeremy, but I think he proved his doubters wrong in 2017 in the election.”
The former Labour leader, who has nearly three quarters of a million followers on Twitter, went viral again this week after he ridiculed the Tory government’s attempts to get a deal on Brexit.
He explained that the tweet, which garnered 114,000 likes, was sent in exasperation after he listened to a minister try to defend the DUP.
“We voted late on Brexit on Monday night and I woke up the next morning listening to the radio and I was hearing some minister say something that made it sound like the DUP were running the country.
“And I just thought ‘oh for goodness sake’. The whole fiasco of ‘manic Monday’, really and truly!
“A member of the Cabinet just said to me, I won’t name him, ‘very restrained Tweet’.”
Miliband said he was enjoying the freedom of being a backbencher and the licence it gave him to use social media in a way no party leader could.
“It’s true I couldn’t have done that tweet [as Labour leader].
“I did a tweet the other week saying Donald Trump is an absolute moron. OK, lots of people liked the tweet. There was a context, it was because he was spreading false stuff about the crime figures in the context of radical Islamic terrorism.
“Jeremy Corbyn no doubt agreed with me, but even he can’t tweet that Trump is an absolute moron – and that’s Jeremy Corbyn, who no doubt feels less constrained than I felt.
“I don’t think tweets from me or Jeremy Corbyn or Donald Trump replace what journalism does, but it definitely gives you an audience.
“That’s the upside, there are lots of downsides to Twitter. I always say to people who are new on Twitter: don’t read what people write about you on Twitter. That’s the first principle….it can be toxic.”
But Miliband said that he didn’t want to use his online popularity to follow former colleague Ed Balls down the reality TV show route of either ‘Celebrity Great British Bake-Off’ or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
“I confess I turned down Celebrity Bake Off… I’m just not very good,” he said.
“No to the [I’m a Celebrity] Jungle. I tend to lay off the celebrity doo-dah, sort of thingummies.
“I did get asked to do this crisp advert with Gary Lineker. Lynsey who works for me said no to that. I didn’t even get to find out what that would have involved me doing.
“Celebrity mastermind? No….I think it’s a direct route to humiliation actually.”
Miliband said his hugely successful ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’ podcast, hosted with radio presenter Geoff Lloyd, was one way he was trying to help Labour.
“What role can I play? I want to be person who helps provide the ideas that a Labour government can implement.
“That’s partly what the podcast is about. If a Tory government wants to implement that’s good as well. I’m quite struck in the listener feedback we get, it’s not just Labour people listening.”
From the Tory manifesto to the recent Budget, some of the former Labour leader’s ideas have proved more popular than when he lost the 2015 election to David Cameron.
Asked how he felt about ‘Milibandism’ being now in vogue, he said he was “more flattered than annoyed”.
“On May-ism, if it is an ‘ism’ and not a ‘wasm’, when I heard that speech she gave on the steps of Downing Street, I did sort of think ‘bugger me, that sounds like a little bit of Farage and a little bit of me’. That’s a slightly monstrous thought.
“But the problem for her is that with one or two isolated examples, the energy price cap and Zimbabwean style land seizures which they now think is a good idea, they haven’t really followed through on it.”
“One of the things that people are not seeing enough of is that Brexit wasn’t just a vote about immigration and Europe. The people who voted for Brexit - I see it in my constituency, one of the top-ranked constituencies in the country for Brexit by 70-something per cent - are like the woman who told me the day after the referendum: ‘I voted for a new beginning for my grandchildren’.
“I think that whatever happens in terms of the Brexit settlement we get, that mandate is the space in British politics, that’s what Jeremy’s trying to build. That’s what Theresa May to her credit was identifying on the steps of downing street. And that’s her big failure, her inability to follow that through.”