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What next for David Miliband after brother Ed's victory?

Richard Moss | 12:35 UK time, Sunday, 26 September 2010

Brothers united - David Miliband congratulates Ed, but what will happen next?

It must have been a shattering defeat for the South Shields MP and his supporters in the constituency and the region.

To lose by such a small margin must be particularly galling.

From his campaign launch in South Shields to almost the last moment, he was seen as the certain winner, by bookmakers and observers alike.

So where did it all go wrong?

I'm not claiming to be a sage, but from the start I did think it wouldn't be as straightforward as some believed.

Firstly, you've got to look at the constituency he was trying to woo.

A substantial section of the Labour membership, and crucuially the affiliated unions, did not want a "Blairite" as the next leader.

They wanted a break from New Labour, and distance from what they would have seen as its biggest mistake - the Iraq War.

David Miliband did not offer any of those.

He won respect for his experience, and his formidable political skills, but it didn't prove enough.

His refusal to trash New Labour, and backtrack on the Iraq war may have been consistent and laudable but it may have cost him the election. He became the continuity candidate.

In contrast, his brother could paint himself as an insurgent and the agent of change.

Then there was the length of the contest.

I'm pretty sure that if the election had concluded in July, it would now have been David not Ed celebrating yesterday.

But the long contest eat away at that certainty.

So what next for David Miliband?

He will feel hurt.

I remember during the election that one of our camera operators mistakenly called him Ed.

I've never seen someone turn from affable to irritable quite so quickly.

It will be hard to defer to his younger brother.

So he must now decide whether he can serve in his brother's Shadow Cabinet.

To walk away could look like sour grapes, and deprive Labour of a man the Opposition fears.

But if he does serve, might he actually cause his brother problems?

It seems impossible to imagine having a Miliband as Leader and Shadow Chancellor. And in almost all jobs, it might be difficult for him to defer to his brother.

There will be endless speculation about how comfortable he is.

Shadow Home Secretary's a possibility if it appeals to him, or he could keep his foreign affairs brief

Having filmed with him at the Foreign Office, I know how much he loved that job, but in Opposition, you don't get the the trappings or influence.

It could also be seen as a career cul de sac. And that will be the real problem facing David Miliband as he considers his future.

If Ed Balls or Andy Burnham had won the leadership, it would be possible to imagine him still having a shot at the top job in the future.

It's almost inconceivable to imagine Labour choosing another Miliband as the next leader whether brother Ed succeeds or not.

His skills and contacts then (Hilary Clinton is an avowed fan) may lead him to a job outside UK politics, and away from South Shields.

He may of course now regret his decision not to take up the chance of being the EU's Foreign Rrepresentative.

And what of the party he wanted to lead?

They certainly have to unite behind Miliband jnr to take on the Coalition, but can they?

Below the apparent surface of unity in Manchester, I'm hearing murmurs of discontent.

One David Miliband-supporting MP has told my colleague Mark Denten that he fears Ed Miliband will be a disaster for the party.

Some of Milband Snr's supporters are also privately questioning the legitimacy of the election process, given that it was union votes that made the difference.

And then there's a danger of the "lurch to the left".

Personally, I Don't buy the "Red Ed" tag. There isn't that much difference philosophically between the Miliband brothers.

But he will be tagged as the creature of the unions, and he'll have to convince a public that doesn't know a lot about him that he can unite his party and become a Prime Minister-in-waiting.


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