DAVID MILIBAND pleaded with Labour yesterday not to turn the leadership struggle into the kind of “soap opera” that disfigured the Blair and Brown era.
Making his first appearance on the conference stage in Manchester since his narrow defeat, the shadow foreign secretary called on the party to unite behind younger brother Ed.
But he also fuelled speculation over his own future by failing to commit to serving on Labour’s top team.
David Miliband received a warm welcome when he emerged yesterday to face the party that rejected him, with his brother joining the standing ovation from the platform.
Thanking delegates for their expressions of sympathy, he quipped that one had mistaken him for Ed and offered congratulations, adding ruefully: “I can do without that.”
He also joked that the short notice for his speech yesterday had not been a problem – because he already had some unused drafts lying around.
But David Miliband made clear he had no intention of being a thorn in the side of the new leadership despite his obvious disappointment.
While he had been “100% committed” to fighting for the leadership, he had gone into the contest “reconciled to the prospect” that he might lose, he said.
Referring to the Blair-Brown conflict that constantly threatened to tear the party apart during its 13 years in power, he insisted: “No more cliques, no more factions, no more soap opera – one united Labour Party taking on a divided Government.”
“We have a great new leader and we all have to get behind him,” he said. “I am really, really, really proud. I am so proud of my campaign. I am so proud of my party. But above all I am incredibly proud of my brother.
“I see Ed as a special person to me. Now he is a special person to you and our job is to make him a special person for all the British people.”
The brothers, who were earlier seen chatting privately, embraced after the address.
When they came off stage David reportedly needed to comfort his wife Louise, who was in floods of tears.
The gathering in Manchester has been dominated by speculation over the former foreign secretary’s intentions, and possible jobs he could seek outside of politics.
He has until 5pm tomorrow to decide whether to put forward his name for the shadow cabinet elections, which are expected to involve 50 or more MPs chasing 19 slots around top table. The results of the poll are due on October 7.
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