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Ed Miliband has finally found his calling: it’s podcasts, not politics

As co-host of Reasons to Be Cheerful, Miliband has an easygoing, wonkish charm. And, apparently, an interest in toilets

By Caroline Crampton  

Labour leader Ed Miliband appears on the radio. But it is podcasts that seem to suit the former Labour leader best. Photo: PA

Within two minutes of the first episode of his new podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, Ed Miliband is talking about toilets. He’s singing the praises of his co-host Geoff Lloyd’s fancy Japanese model: “Let me just tell listeners, it is a spectacular toilet,” the former cabinet minister and leader of the Labour party says in a serious tone of voice. “It looks like a normal toilet, but then it has these electronic devices, sort of next door to the toilet.” When Lloyd asks if he’s even had a go on it yet, Miliband doesn’t miss a beat. “Give me time, I’ve only been here 15 minutes,” he deadpans.

Since losing the 2015 general election and his subsequent resignation as Labour leader, Ed Miliband has tried out various alternative occupations. There was his appearance on The Last Leg, where he lip synced to a-ha’s Take On Me” and confirmed that panel shows weren’t really his forte. There was his new sassy Twitter persona, which saw him diss Piers Morgan and poke fun at his own energy price cap policy—in March this year, the Telegraph crowned him “king of the Twitter burn.” Yet it was only when he stood in as the host of The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 in June that he finally found his true calling: being nerdy on the radio. (That particular week-long gig saw him attempt to death metal scream on air and ask listeners to send in the sound of their toilets flushing. Ed really likes toilets, we’re learning.)

Now that he’s found the right outlet for his talents, Miliband has teamed up with former Absolute Radio DJ Geoff Lloyd to create his own podcast. The two first met in April 2015 when Lloyd interviewed Miliband on his radio show—an encounter which some commentators declared “made you seriously consider the Labour leader to be the next prime minister.”

On the podcast, the pair have an easy, affectionate chemistry, all gentle teasing and affable joshing. The mission of the show—to examine big ideas that might yet give us hope for humanity—fits with the hosts’ cheery dynamic.

And it really sounds like Lloyd and Miliband are a team: unlike in the case of some celebrity-fronted podcasts, Ed contributes plenty to the structure of the show, leading interviews and giving listeners the details to email in. It’s clear he’s done his homework, rather than just rocking up to be “the talent.”

We shouldn’t really be surprised by that, though. If we know anything about Ed Miliband, it’s that he’s a man who loves to absorb all the details and, if anything, over prepare. His nerdiness, which voters found off-putting and alienating, is an asset on a podcast that aims to communicate lofty concepts in an approachable way.

He gives his inner geek full rein, executing numerous terrible pun—the podcast is a “geoffocracy”, we’re told, and his son’s prowess at making the crumbly bottom for a cheesecake proves he can “appeal to the base”—in between explaining the economic pitfalls of Universal Basic Income.

The warmth that fans always claimed he possessed in person but which never really came across on the political stage easily comes to the fore in the intimate atmosphere of a podcast, when it’s just him and Lloyd in your headphones on your commute.

Best of all, Ed Miliband can be funny, in a clumsy, silly way: in a segment in the first episode where the comedian Gráinne Maguire contributes her own “reasons to be cheerful,” suggest that any man who harasses a woman on Twitter should have his last five Google searches made public, he delivers the phrase “horse porn” as an off-the-cuff punchline with aplomb.

On the podcast, free from expectation or responsibility, Miliband is completely honest—and not in that dreadful 2010 “Ed speaks human” way. He says he thought that David Cameron’s technique of conducting tense negotiations on a full bladder “was public school bollocks, to be honest” and that “Prime Minister’s Question Time is so awful—I was so traumatised by it”. He tells an anecdote about falling over while out for a run and says that Mitt Romney was “much nicer in person than I expected.”

And his high point of this year so far? “I got retweeted by Lord Buckethead, that was quite a big moment for me.” It’s not really a reason to be cheerful, but you can’t help feeling that if this Ed Miliband had been leader of the Labour Party, the last two years would look very different.

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