UK Politics

Is Miliband cutout to be PM? My day with cardboard Ed

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Media captionIs Ed Miliband likely to be PM?

To see how the public react to the man who wants to be prime minister, I spent the morning with a cardboard cutout of Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Things don't start promisingly for the political class as a whole.

When I ask the receptionist in the print shop whether they make a lot of cardboard politicians, she says they don't - they usually do "famous people".

Cardboard Ed fitted into the boot of the car - just.

We drove him to Stevenage in Hertfordshire - the kind of seat that Labour needs to win to form the next government.

The Daily Politics wanted to see what sort of welcome he got. It was, shall we say, mixed.

A Labour voter made the familiar charge that the party picked the wrong brother. "He's useless," said one woman. "He's got no backbone," said a young man.

"He's given up already," said a pensioner - although Cardboard Ed had just blown over in the wind.

But there were some supporters.

"He's got real vision," said one woman. "He's the only real choice for working-class people," proclaimed a man wearing a sweatshirt in bright Labour red.

I asked a trio of teenage girls whether they would like a night out with Ed at a branch of a well-known chicken chain. "I'd be all over that!" said one. "Nah - it would be well boring," said her friend.

At least they recognised him. One shopper confidently claimed that Ed was a TV chef.

One woman hissed that he only stood up for the rich - before she realised it wasn't David Cameron.

Ed and I took the train back to London. Standard class, of course.

The cardboard Labour leader was great for making new friends, kicking off typically Miliband-esque conversations about the performance of the French president with an exports manager from the north-west of England and the relocation of hi-tech jobs with an aeronautical engineer from Russia.

At King's Cross station, one of the ticket inspectors manning the barrier was a big fan.

"I'll let him through without a ticket," he said. "If it was Cameron I would have given him a penalty fare."

The next lesson I learned: it's really hard getting a life-size cardboard cutout down an escalator on the Tube in a way that makes you look good.

Ed and I resurfaced at Trafalgar Square where we posed for some foreign tourists' photos - even though hardly any of them knew who he was.

In Whitehall, a chap with the concerned air of a civil servant asked whether I would be carrying around cutouts of other leaders in future, in the interests of balance. You mean I have to do this again?

The police officers manning the gate of Downing Street just pointed their guns in that slightly scary/jaunty way when I asked if they thought Ed would be their new boss.

A woman ran up and threw her arms around him. I feared another TV chef moment until she told me she worked for the NHS and thought Ed would be the saviour of the health service.

A friendly face greeted Cardboard Ed at the BBC's Westminster bureau - the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, waiting to do an interview.

"At least you've got a picture that makes him look prime ministerial," he said of his 2D colleague. "But you do realise he's much taller in real life, don't you?"

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