There are things on this day, Thursday 29 May 2014, that Ed Miliband may not know. He may not know that George Michael has, once again, been rushed to hospital. Or that David Cameron is under pressure from his cabinet to enforce “red lines” in Europe over immigration.
These things may pass him by because they are on the front page of the Sun. Asked for an opinion – and local radio reporters keen on advancement are prone to ask politicians for their opinions – he may find he knows nothing of the “One Direction pot shame” involving poor Louis, because that’s in the Mirror. As a man of gravitas, it is perhaps right that the Labour leader be untroubled by such things, but the Times front page might trouble him. It says British girls have “become the fattest in Europe”. And the Indy splash seems relevant. It says: “Grammar schools widen the gap between rich and poor.”
But he may lack first-hand knowledge of all of this, because, as Miliband boasts to Buzzfeed, he doesn’t bother with the British papers.
For a truer, firmer grasp of the country he might soon be running, he turns to the US aggregation site RealClearPolitics. In many ways an admirable news source. So if that is his window on the world, what will he know? Well, he could be a bit behind – because of the time difference between here and the US – but on Thursday morning he will certainly know quite a bit about what happened there on Wednesday.
He will be aware that President Obama took the stick to his critics over foreign policy, though it’s worth saying he would also have got that from the Guardian. He will know that Michelle Obama has a downer on junk food, that Republicans are losing the argument over Obamacare, that the rock-star economist Thomas Piketty is in a spot of bother over his statistics (as revealed by the Financial Times last Saturday) and that, following the latest California shootings, gun control is once again a hot topic on the other side of the Atlantic. Thanks to a clipping from the Investor’s Business Daily, he might learn a bit about Ukip. He will see a photo of Nigel Farage drinking a pint of beer.
But then he could have seen one of those in any publication on the planet.
The question is, will all this render him able to quickfire respond the next time he is asked how much he spends in British supermarkets, or who sits atop the download charts? It isn’t always easy ploughing through the British papers. Cruel and unusual punishment some days.
But you might think it’s part of the job.