Alexandra Dinning

Looking on the Bright Side- An Interview with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd about ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’

If Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd want to be known for doing one thing in their podcast, it’s for being hands-on in all areas. They affably, and, as I tell them, somewhat bewilderingly, answer their Skype call without any preamble from their helpers. Lloyd compares it to their recent interaction with the Icelandic prime minister: “we thought we’d be on to spin doctors and handlers and it was just her!”.

The pair began the well-received Reasons to be Cheerful in September last year, the latest development in a mutually described bromance which began when Miliband was interviewed by Lloyd during the 2015 election campaign. Seeing the then Labour leader as “not getting the chance to be himself [during the campaign]”, Lloyd, then at Absolute Radio, hoped to create an interview that revealed him to be “funny and warm”. The results were a departure from the usual dry political interviews: “I think you asked me whether I’d ever done a moonie”, muses Miliband.

The relationship between its presenters does give an all-important charm to Cheerful, but its aims delve deeper than just that. The podcast acts as an attempt to give an earnest and positive side to a world of contemporary politics, that often tends to seem anything but. Its premise is fairly simple- Miliband’s mission statement is “optimistic ideas, to make the country better, presented in an accessible and entertaining way”. Topics vary widely- episodes have featured upbeat takes on everything from the NHS crisis, to the privatisation of travel, to the gender pay gap (cue the Icelandic Prime Minister). Although presented with panache by the two- Ed fresh from standing in for Jeremy Vine in 2017 and Geoff an experienced presenter- a lot of the podcast’s important information comes from its expert guests. These range from professors to celebrities, with the most recent episode on mental health including psychiatrist Professor Sir Simon Wessley, but also Ruby Wax and George Ezra.

Both are excited by the possibilities the podcast has to offer- for Lloyd, he sees even better audience engagement than with traditional radio. Speaking about their listeners, he enthuses about getting “so much great stuff” from their texts and emails, all of which adds to debate. Miliband, although clearly comfortable in his new role as podcast host, is adamant that the job remains linked to his continuing role as a politician and Labour MP (for Doncaster North)- “I take that job very seriously”. Nonetheless, he is eager to stress the non-partisan appeal of Cheerful, which is “about people from all parties […] who want to know that there are good ideas out there”.

Liverpool proved an obvious choice for their second ever live recording, thanks to listener demand- one of those listeners being current Guild President Sean Turner. However, there were also some personal motivations that drew them to the city. Lloyd admits that “I really want to go to Mowgli for my tea!”.

And how long do they think they might keep this going? The original plan was only for ten episodes, and they have now exceeded twenty. It would seem listeners can safely assume that the podcast will continue for a while yet, as both seem stumped by the question. It is decided that it will probably keep going until the two get bored, or run out of things to say. Fair enough. There could be trouble in paradise, though: “We may split up due to musical differences”, Lloyd warns.

 

To listen to the full interview, tune in to the News Hour on LSRadio @ 4pm on the 15th of February.

The next live recording of Reasons to be Cheerful will take place at Mountford Hall in Liverpool Guild of Students, on the 19th of February @ 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Listen to previous episodes here.

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