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David Miliband’s recent interview with The Strad was picked up by Fleet Street and was perhaps more revealing than we had originally thought, says Matthew Andrews

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

This month’s Double Acts interview with former Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his violinist wife Louise Shackelton caused a ripple of interest in the national press here in the UK – and it was all thanks to Twitter.

The Labour MP for South Shields posted a tweet on the microblogging site after his encounter with The Strad in November, and within minutes plugged-in hacks from the Daily Mirror and The Guardian were on the phone wanting to know how indiscreet the couple had been. As our editor, Ariane, said at the time: ‘Who ever said journalists were lazy?’

Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian’s chief arts writer, and something of an expert on matters Miliband, posted a blog entry on that paper’s website homing in on a remark Mr Miliband had made to us about the classical music world being worse for gossip and backbiting than the Palace of Westminster. ‘Ouch’ indeed.

Then, at the beginning of this month, Mr Miliband tweeted about us again after receiving his copy of the magazine. At the time he’d just revealed he would be devoting some of his time to teaching politics classes at his old school in north London. The high-profile Arsenal fan had also unveiled his new appointment as vice-chairman of Premier League football club Sunderland, his local constituency side.

Cue more phone calls from the nationals, this time from the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times, enquiring whether Mr Miliband had happened to mention these subjects in his interview with us. A rather unkind diary piece also appeared in the Evening Standard decontextualising some remarks Shackelton had made in The Strad interview about providing her sons with a musical education. All publicity is good publicity, though, right?

In retrospect we realised that interviewer Nick Shave’s original draft had contained an unusual number of football-related comments that hadn’t made it into the magazine, but which had suddenly taken on greater significance. There was this, for example: ‘My dad could sing, but I wasn’t really introduced to music at either the primary school or comprehensive school I went to in north London – I was doing other things like playing football.’

This soccer-heavy analogy also ended up on our cutting room floor:

‘As an Arsenal supporter, watching Louise’s concerts is a bit like being an away football fan – you visit Birmingham, Basingstoke, Salzburg and Paris. But you also get nervous, because there’s this live high-wire act – you know there are hundreds of people watching and if a performer comes in early, everybody notices. And the London Symphony Orchestra is a bit like a Premier League club, really: you’ve got this balance between bringing in the world’s best and nurturing your own talent. The balance seems rather better in the LSO than it does in the Arsenal football team at the moment, because in the LSO you’ve got loads of British people, and a sprinkling of players from overseas who help raise the internationalism and keep up the standard.’

Was Mr Miliband trying to tell us something? And if so, does that count as an exclusive of sorts? We now know one or two people in Fleet Street who might be able to answer that…

You can read the interview with David Miliband and Louise Shackelton in the January issue of the magazine. The Strad’s Twitter stream is at http://twitter.com/thestradeditor.

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