The conversation began with an acknowledgement of the decline, at least electorally, of centre left politics in the developed world. Alongside this Miliband argued that the balance of power globally is profoundly shifting.
Closer to home there was a clear acceptance that Labour’s performance at the 2010 election was exceptionally poor. When quizzed on his role now in Labour’s recovery he said “I have to observe the first oath not to get in the way. I have to look forward as well as back.” That said his future ambitions were perhaps exposed when he said it was right not to be in the shadow cabinet “at the moment”.
Brilliantly diplomatic with incisive questions from host and audience (not least about his allegiances to both Arsenal and Sunderland), he often cited the ‘do no harm’ principle before responding. Throughout he was careful and considered but this may be his weakness. Miliband is perhaps too accomplished a politician and his passion often gives way to pragmatism.
David Miliband in conversation with Matthew d’Ancona
So the origin of the suits was a desire for respectability. Two lower class country boys dressing like artists that your mother would feel comfortable with. “It didn’t quite turn out like that”.
“We want to be weird and normal at the same time. We don’t just want to be weird…that would be normal.”
The artists talked about their love of Spitalfields and East London and their amazement at how it has become such a focus for the creative arts over the years. It used to be home to more tramps than artists; meths drinkers who were both “friendly and dangerous”.
Recently they have stolen nearly 4000 newspaper posters. Gilbert goes into the newspaper to buy a mars bar an George lifts the poster with a harrowing headline. We were treated to a recital giving a verbal clue as to the artworks that will emerge from these thefts.
Conservative anarchists and outsiders they’ve played a central role in changing the art world whilst choosing to behave so badly that they were never invited to be part or its establishment.
It always pays to keep an ear to the ground at Hay for recommendations and word of late additions to the programme. This years the rumour mill was grinding out speculation that Julian Assange would be holding court at some point.
The rumours it turns out are true. Assange will be holding a session entitled simply ‘Wikileaks’ next Saturday 4th June at 2.30pm on the Welsh stage.
My recommendation to the organisers is that they accompany him on route. I was taking to PR guru Mark Borkowski a couple of weeks ago who knows Assange well, who said that whilst Assange could navigate every corner of the internet he wouldn’t trust him to traverse the London underground.