Last night, Channel 4 News interviewed a man who spoke with passion, fluency, urgency and just-the-right-amount of humour. He talked about education, immigration and enterprise. His words were stirring and thought-provoking, sparking the dry tinder of policy and debate. The irritant verbal tics of his youth, not least the uncontrollable urge to describe things as ‘pukka’, were all but gone. Here was a man who had something to say and said it – plain and simple.
And, as well as Jamie Oliver, Channel 4 interviewed Ed Miliband.
You would be hard pushed to find a greater contrast. The sequencing was unfortunate, perhaps deliberate; the press are sensing blood and are after Miliband. Where Oliver was relishing the role of flag-bearer and skilfully bridged the gap between what can be distant policy and the watching public, Miliband was chronically unable to translate his thinking in to anything that resonated.
Jamie Oliver was talking to the public. Not talking down, or over-simplifying. Nor was he taking the populist line which can so easily be trodden by people who don’t tie themselves to party politics (he spoke with conviction, for example, about the way immigrants to this country have been integral to the growth of his business).
Ed Miliband was talking to himself. His sentences were contorted, convoluted and stuttering – they would start with some purpose then end abruptly or without any clear sense of what he meant. He appeared deeply unrelaxed.
There is an intellectual power to Miliband, that much is clear, but this means nothing unless he can communicate and connect. As an attempt to win votes for the local election, this interview would neither draw undecided voters to Labour nor would it have the loyalists rattling their sabres.
A funny old world when it looks like a chef has all the ingredients of a political leader, and the politician looks like he’s finding it too hot in the kitchen.