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Ed Miliband on the West Wing clip that changed his political career

The former Labour Party Leader talks about his upbringing, his regrets and his new book, Go Big, on the Penguin Podcast.

A portrait of Ed Miliband against a green background
Ed Miliband: 'You've got to stand for what you believe in'

Over the course of a political career spanning nearly three decades, Ed Miliband has read – and written – a lot of speeches. But there is one that he persistently returns to, which has had a great impact on his time as Labour Party Leader – and it was from a television show.

Speaking to Nihal Arthanayake on the Penguin Podcast, Miliband chose the speech from an episode of The West Wing called 'Let Bartlet Be Bartlet'. “One of [the president’s] staff has written a memo saying that he just compromised all the time and didn’t really stand for what he believed in,” explained Miliband. The scene results in a new political strategy, referred to as Let Bartlett Be Bartlett in which the president decides to speak up.

“I used to play this for inspiration when I was a Labour leader,” Miliband told Arthanayake. “It always makes me tear up, actually. I find it an incredibly moving clip.”

Miliband went on to tell a story that he’s not spoken about publicly before, about a broadcast interview in 2011 that went viral after the politician gave the same response repeatedly in regards to the public sector pension strikes happening at the time. On the podcast, Miliband explained that he was giving the broadcaster the option of several takes, “but they broadcast the whole clip. And of course it looked incredibly like I was a robot, because I said the same thing five times.”

After that incident, Miliband was urged – like Bartlet in The West Wing – to “take a stand on some things”. “I remember really thinking at the time, ‘You’ve got the stand for what you believe in and I think that’s why Let Bartlet Be Bartlet is really important. You’ve got to try and say what you think.”

Also in the episode, Miliband reflects on the regrets he has on his time as Labour leader, why he believes that change is possible and what he thinks of Joe Biden. You can listen to it below, or by clicking here.

Read more: Ed Miliband on five books that have shaped his life

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