Chat with ‘Gareth’ on Hampstead Heath inspires Ed Miliband’s Labour conference speech

A software engineer from Kentish Town became an overnight internet star after Labour leader Ed Miliband used chance encounters with walkers on Hampstead Heath as inspiration for his party conference speech.

Gareth Edwards, who works for Kentish Town Cluster firm Softwire, met Mr Miliband on a bench on the Heath a few weeks ago but had no idea their brief conversation would end up forming the backbone of the MP’s hour-long speech on Tuesday.

The leader of the opposition, who lives in Dartmouth Park, also quoted conversations he had on the Heath with a chef and two female students, who were disappointed to learn he was not the actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

However, it was his repeated references to meeting IT expert Mr Edwards that caused the 36-year-old to start trending on Twitter with the hashtag #Gareth.

Mr Edwards, who voted Liberal Democrat at the last election, said a Labour advisor rang him last week to ask if it would be ok to mention him in the politician’s last conference speech before the 2015 general election.

However, he did not expect to be featured so prominently.

On Newsnight, he said of his encounter with Mr Miliband: “He came across as very sincere. I don’t think it’s transformed my opinion but it’s pushed me in that direction.”