Ed Miliband has been channeling Alan Partridge on Radio 2 and even Tories are starting to like him

After discussing toilet flushes and attempting a death metal roar, ex-Labour leader closes his surreal Radio 2 stint with a spot of Schnauzer shaving

Adam Lusher
Friday 23 June 2017 18:04
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Ed Miliband seems to be winning over the nation by channeling Alan Partridge
Ed Miliband seems to be winning over the nation by channeling Alan Partridge

In a world of ever deepening political confusion, it is a question that can no longer be avoided: just what exactly is Ed Miliband up to?

The man we once knew as a pointy-headed policy wonk who couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich properly has taken to the airwaves, filling in for Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.

He’s been “talking toilets” – “dual flush toilets”. He’s been taking grindcore lessons from the lead singer of Napalm Death: “You have sort of got to make a… roaring noise?”

The ex-Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls had tried Strictly Come Dancing to boost his popularity. Was this other Ed, the Member of Parliament for Doncaster North, now engaging in some sort of fiendish Alan Partridge-inspired plot? To get a second series, perhaps, or a second crack at the Labour leadership?

Compare and contrast.

Partridge: “I've just bought a house. It's got a Buck Rogers toilet. One yank, all gone.”

Miliband: “Tell us about your toilet, Lucinda… Do you want to give us a flush? That was a pretty silent flush.”

Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn should be worried again.

Perhaps this is how politics works now. Because all this death metal toilet talk is getting Miliband a following. Tory listeners have declared him “genuinely the best”. Napalm Death streams have surged 228 per cent on Spotify.

And now – after asking listeners to flush their loos live for the nation, after “This is the Verve … actually, correction, it’s Queen”, Ed Miliband was going to do something really awkward.

He was going to talk to his brother David – the same brother he had pushed aside to win the Labour leadership election in 2010. Leading to David declaring, four days later, that he was quitting frontline politics, to “avoid perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where there is none, and splits where they don’t exist”.

Tthe younger brother channelling Partridge, the older brother possibly nursing old wounds: how was this going to play out live on national radio?

 Alan Partridge, the fictional 'king of chat', has been given a run for his money

Rather impressively, actually.

We got glimpses of the old Ed, and a bit of politics.

He played his brother in with the Barry McGuire’s 1960s protest song Eve of Destruction, and explained: “When my brother left Parliament, he took on the job of President of International Rescue Committee.”

He didn’t actually go into the tedious detail of why his brother left Parliament, preferring instead to tell listeners that President Bill Clinton once described ‘Dave’ as “one of the ablest and most creative public servants of his time”.

Noel and Liam Gallagher they weren’t.

Instead, listeners got a level-headed discussion of how Ralph Miliband, their father, had survived as a refugee from Nazi Germany, how other members of the family had failed to escape Fascist persecution in the 1940s, and how refugees can make a positive contribution to society.

And, of course, the brothers discussed how Theresa May might like to rethink her Government’s refusal to commit to accepting 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.

Then the link between the studio and David, in New York, went wobbly. It became impossible to make out what older brother was telling younger brother.

“OK, Dave,” Ed sais, sounding genuinely regretful. “I think we are going to have to stop you. The line is going. We’re going to hear some music: it’s OMD, ‘Enola Gay’.”

No, Ed did not say: “That was Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark with some classic electro-rock from their album, Architecture and Morality: two subjects I’m sure we could discuss all night.” But it was still a sign that the new intentional/unintentional comedy gold Partridge-Miliband was back.

“A large number of dogs are coming into the studio,” he said. “If you are hearing some panting, that’s not me. That’s a very large dog in the studio. Winston looks like a bear to me, not really a dog...”

Ed was going to try his hand at dog-grooming.

“We couldn’t think of a better song choice than this," he said, "Because I’m asking: 'Who Let The Dogs Out?’”

Chat and intros to mildly irritating songs from the 2000s don’t get better than that.

“I am really taking my life into my hands here,” Ed told listeners, perhaps overselling it a little, given that he wasn’t going to try grooming Winston, “the massive Pyrenean wotsit [mountain dog].”

That honour fell to “poor Mavis”, the mini Schnauzer, “who up to now has had a very nice life, until she got groomed by me.”

We heard the buzz of the clippers.

“It’s not that different from using an electric shaver on oneself really,” Ed/Alan told the nation. “Except it’s a dog, obviously…”

Mavis survived. So did Ed.

“Maybe I’ll be in touch to become a trainee of Studio Paw if all else fails,” he told the salon owner.

But we all know he must be aiming at something much higher than trainee Schnauzer shaver.

“I have so enjoyed this week,” he said, thanking everybody with admirable thoroughness.

“I want to thank the dogs, who were incredibly well behaved. And here is James Blunt...”

Next week, it’s the turn of ex-leader of the Tories, Iain Duncan Smith, to be Jeremy Vine’s stand-in. Who knows how that will go?

As for Ed and his Partridge-based masterplan, maybe only he knows where it will lead.

But be sure of this: strange things are happening in the public mind. Just consider the tweet that came seconds after Ed gave way for the news.

“I am loving the new James Blunt album,” said a listener on Twitter, “almost as much as Ed Miliband on BBC Radio 2.”

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