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Jesse Armstrong: "The nation is growing to see Miliband as a likable oddball"

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Jesse Armstrong knows a thing or two about British politics. Or at least the pratfalls associated with it. As a writer of The Thick Of It, he's quicker than most at appreciating the sillier side of stuffy election trails. Here he tells ShortList how it's looked to him so far...

It’s been a bit of a non-election so far – the big turning point was David Cameron not showing up at the challengers’ debate. That was a night he could have set the tone, but most people thought, “Where’s the prime minister?” Since then it’s felt like he doesn't especially want to win. He’s come across like he’s campaigning for the Party of Mild Boredom. Or the PTA. I imagine he’s terrified of winning – what will happen with Europe and the sceptics in his party? He’ll have a tough time if he wins.

I think people have grown to like Ed Miliband. He’s had a tough job with the right-wing press, as Labour leaders always do. I feel like a spin doctor now, but the nation’s growing to see Miliband as a likable oddball, rather than a goofy geek they weren’t warming to. When people have seen him over an extended period of time in debates, they've thought, “He’s not as bad as I expected."

If you compare him to Gordon Brown, Miliband doesn’t have that baggage – neither the statesmanlike “I saved the world” aura, nor Brown’s tragic air where, by the end, you just felt sorry for him. He hasn't had a Gillian Duffy moment, either – Labour is running tight campaigns with little contact with the public. In 1992, John Major stood on his soapbox, which turned out well, but it’s risky – I’m not sure it’s good if they meet ‘real people,’ especially if they end up speaking about them in disparaging terms afterwards.

The Peep Show Creator's new book Love, Sex & Other Foreign Policy Goals is out now 

Check out the rest of Shortlist Magazine's General Election special below

Peter Hitchens

Owen Jones

Will Self

Michael Deacon

Alastair Campbell

Mark Gatiss

Simon Jenkins

Iain Dale

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