Labour party leader Ed Miliband on Joey Essex, being a pool shark and discovering the YOLO philosophy
In the run-up to the general election on May 7, we’re chatting to leading figures in all five major parties. Eddy Frankel meets the Labour big cheese to talk inequality, eight ball pool and the philosophy of YOLO.
What would London get out of voting Labour?
‘Most of all, the country being run a different way. In London you get the sense of a country that feels like it works for the rich and powerful and doesn’t work for most people. If you look at Labour’s programme – raising the minimum wage, banning exploitative zero-hour contracts, building homes again, investing in the NHS with revenue from a mansion tax on homes above £2 million – that is a programme to put working people first. I’m not pretending it will be all easy decisions, but I am saying that you’re going to have a prime minister with a different set of priorities. And I think that will be as keenly felt in London as everywhere else.’
In terms of the way the country is being run now, what do you think the public is most tired of?
‘Feeling like it’s one rule for the richest and another rule for everybody else. Tax avoidance, tax cuts for billionaires but tax rises for everyone else; the government saying yes to the bedroom tax but no to the mansion tax…British people have a basic sense of fairness and that isn’t what’s happening.’
A lot of Londoners think gentrification is unfair too. Do you think it’s a problem?
‘The way I would put it is that deep inequality is a problem. One of the important things about London is people from different walks of life being able to live side by side. It’s increasingly rare in the capital. I love London, I love its diversity, but I don’t want a London where only the rich can afford to live in it.’
If diversity is important, should we be worried about Ukip?
‘No, I think we should challenge them on their views about the diversity of our country, on privatising the NHS, and we should challenge them on whether Britain benefits from being an outwardlooking country. I think it does, and I think we benefit from being in the European Union.’
What annoys you most about the way the media portrays you?
‘You know, it’s weird, but it doesn’t annoy me, really. Some of the right-wing newspapers don’t want me to win the election. That’s their prerogative. They don’t want to attack me for my ideas, they want to attack me for how I eat a bacon sandwich, or something trivial. If you let it get to you, they win; and if you don’t let it get to you, you win.’
It must be so frustrating, though.
‘The truth is that the public doesn’t really care. The public cares about what it’s going to mean for their lives. Especially in this election and at this point in our country. And, in a way, I am quite frustrated.’
Sounds like enough to turn you to drink – so what’s your usual at the House of Commons bar?
‘My usual? Diet Coke.’
Oh, come on!
‘I’m not a big drinker. And I don’t drink at the House of Commons bars – I’m doing other things!’ [Labour director of news Bob Roberts interjects: ‘They’re horrible places.’] ‘He said that, not me.’
If drinking isn’t your thing, what’s your biggest vice?
‘I’m a secret pool player. Not quite a pool shark, but I’m better than people think. Though that’s probably quite a low bar, actually.’
Do you have much time for culture? What was the last cultural thing you did in London?
‘I saw Ellie Goulding before Christmas. I thought she was brilliant, and Bastille played, and Tom Odell. It was a great line-up.’
David Cameron is apparently Kim Kardashian’s thirteenth cousin. What reality TV star would you choose to be related to?
‘Crumbs, that is a tough question. Oh my goodness, Joey Essex? No, we’re not exactly separated at birth. Jermain Jackman? That is unlikely. You’ve stumped me.’
Do you know what ‘YOLO’ means?
‘No. What does it mean?’
It stands for ‘you only live once’.
‘Is that right? That is a good philosophy for politics! It’s about a sense of adventure and doing what you want. Wow! I’ll use it from now on!’
[He turns to his aides.] ‘If I said ‘YOLO’ to you, what would you say?’ [Silence.] ‘I was badly briefed.’
Want to read more election chit chat? Read our interview with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.