David Miliband 'feared being distraction' for Labour


David Miliband: ''I didn't want to become a distraction'

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David Miliband has said he "feared being a distraction" and hopes his decision to leave UK politics helps his brother Ed to lead Labour against the coalition in an "uninhibited way".

The former foreign secretary, pipped to Labour's leadership by his younger brother in 2010, is to step down as an MP and join a US-based charity.

He told the BBC it had been a "very difficult" decision to make.


So does David Miliband's departure strengthen or weaken his brother ?

His friends insist his departure deprives Labour of a figure who would have brought experience and authority to Labour's front bench.

It's argued he would have enabled Labour to better reach out beyond its core vote and to attract those elusive southern voters.

He may also have helped re-fashion Labour's stance on the economy and so regained the party more credibility on the economy.

And yet there were also clear dangers.

A return to the shadow cabinet could have just prompted endless sibling psychodrama stories.

The Labour leader's supporters could reasonably argue their man isn't doing so bad without the help of his brother.

And while in the Westminster village the pros and cons of the most senior remaining Blairite's departure will be much mulled over, outside, life goes on.

Ed Miliband said the move would leave British politics "a poorer place".

But after serving as an MP for 12 years, David Miliband said: "I now have to make a choice about how to give full vent to my ideas and ideals."

In an interview with BBC political editor Nick Robinson, he said: "I feared being a distraction in whatever role I played at Westminster.

"I feel a sense of sadness because I am British. I love Britain. I am passionate about Labour, but I have had to make a choice about where I can make my best contribution."

He said it had been "hard for me to accept that I can best help the Labour Party by not just giving the space between the front bench and the back bench to Ed, but the space between the front bench and 3,000 miles away".

"I have wrestled with this very, very hard, and I have tried to make a decision that I honestly say to Labour members and supporters that is right for me and for the Labour Party.

"I want it to be the vision Ed Miliband has versus the vision David Cameron has. Not Ed and David Miliband. I didn't want to become a distraction. I didn't want the soap opera to take over the real substance of what needs to be done."

The former foreign secretary did not rule out an eventual come back in British politics, but said: "I am taking a job in America, not taking citizenship in America. I will continue to follow what's going on here, but my focus is going to be making a difference through the International Rescue Committee."

'Time has helped heal it'

David Miliband was long seen as a future Labour leader, with supporters of Tony Blair pushing him to stand against Gordon Brown when Mr Blair stepped down as prime minister and Labour leader in 2007.

David Miliband

  • Studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University
  • From 1994 to 1997 was head of policy for Tony Blair, and from 1997 to 2001 was head of his policy unit in Downing Street
  • In June 2002 was appointed Schools Minister
  • Various ministerial appointments followed, and in June 2007 became foreign secretary
  • Married to Louise, a violinist, they have two sons - Isaac and Jacob

There were also frequent reports that he was set to challenge Mr Brown during the three years he was prime minister before leading Labour to defeat at the 2010 election.

Instead of challenging, Mr Miliband bided his time and entered the post-election Labour leadership contest as overwhelming favourite - only to lose to his brother, who gained more union votes but fewer votes from Labour members and MPs.

The disappointment and strained relations led to David Miliband deciding to step down from the Labour front bench to, as he put it in his letter of resignation, "give Ed the space and the same time the support he needed to lead the party without distraction".

Wednesday's announcement seemingly brings to an end the almost constant rumours that he was set for a return to the opposition front bench.

Ed Miliband "If I am prime minister, I will make sure he serves the country in one way or another, because he is a huge talent".

In his statement Ed Miliband said: "Having spoken to him a lot over the past few months, I know how long and hard he thought about this before deciding to take up the offer. I also know how enthusiastic he is about the potential this job provides.

"We went through a difficult leadership contest but time has helped to heal that. I will miss him. But although he is moving to America, I know he will always be there to offer support and advice when I need it."

David Miliband's decision will spark a by-election in South Shields, where he has been MP since 2001, although the timing of any vote is not yet known.

Nick Robinson said Mr Miliband had "clearly concluded he does not want to return to the fray, he doesn't want to serve under his brother in opposition or in government which is a serious blow to his brother, and disappointment to members of the party".

American violinist

In his letter to his constituency party chairman, Mr Miliband said the International Rescue Committee was founded in the 1930s at Albert Einstein's suggestion to help people fleeing the Nazis. And his own family history - his parents both fled Germany in the 1930s - meant "I feel that in doing this job I will be repaying a personal debt".

International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee is well known in charity circles as an emergency relief and development agency. Its symbol, a big yellow arrow, flies over refugee camps and hospitals around the world.

The International Rescue Committee was also, of course, the fictional organisation of heroes in the 1960s children's TV series, Thunderbirds.

After David Miliband has got over the jokes about becoming "Thunderbird One" he'll discover an organisation that not only seeks to help poor people around the world but also advocates policy changes to stop them being poor in the first place.

One of the IRC's best known projects was an in-depth study in 2010 of mortality rates in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It concluded that the war in the central African country - and the consequent devastation of health care - had, over a decade, caused the deaths of over 5m people, making Congo the deadliest conflict since World War Two.

I travelled with an IRC doctor along the Congo River in a dugout canoe to see the situation. The Congolese medic, Dr Pascal Ngoy, took me to clinics that were no more than hovels and "regional hospitals" without staff or drugs.

But the IRC doctor also showed his practical side. We stopped our canoe when a women shouted for help from the river bank. She was suffering from terrible complications in her pregnancy.

With no equipment but a pair of rubber gloves Dr Ngoy performed an emergency abortion and saved the woman's life.

BBC radio documentary on work of the IRC

"This job brings together my personal story and political life. It represents a new challenge and a new start," he said.

The MP, who is vice-chairman and non-executive director of Sunderland Football Club, is married to violinist Louise Shackelton - who has dual UK/US citizenship - and the couple have two children.

Tony Blair, former Labour leader and prime minister, said: "I congratulate David on his appointment to a major international position. It shows the huge regard in which David is held worldwide. I'm sure he will do a great job. He is obviously a massive loss to UK politics.

"He was the head of my policy unit and then a truly distinguished minister in the government and remains one of the most capable progressive thinkers and leaders globally. I hope and believe this is time out, not time over."

David Miliband's former cabinet colleagues, Lord Mandelson and Jack Straw, said they did not think it was the end of his political career.

"I think he has a future in politics... I think I know a little bit about comebacks in politics and, to coin a phrase, if I can come back [then] David Miliband can come back - and I think he will," said Lord Mandelson.

Mr Straw said he would be "welcomed back into the Labour movement".

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps added: "He has contributed a great deal to British politics and we wish him well."

Former US President Bill Clinton congratulated the charity on appointing Mr Miliband, saying: "I have known David almost 20 years. He is one of the ablest, most creative public servants of our time."

But Labour MP John Mann described Mr Miliband as "the man who would have been prime minister if he had ever asked 'And what is your view'?"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    "It's ok for Labour ministers to swan off to New York and their lucrative careers while they leave us behind, struggling to climb out of the hole they spent 10 years digging."

    I don't want to rain on your parade, well, OK, I do, but Louise Mensch left politics too. Only her party is currently digging the UK into an even bigger hole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    I don't usually vote labour, but i can't beleive the party didn't vote him leader over his brother. He looks so much mure electable as a prime minister. I just can't picture Ed to be the man in charge of the country but could see David possibly winning my vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Ed over David. They made the wrong choice. As a Tory voter David would have quite possibly got my vote. Once came across him at a rather tense meeting, David was a voice of calm and reason over showmanship and politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Please find a job for the Labour Front bench but mainly the two Eds and Balls mrs .

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Who can blame him. I'd rather be anything than a politician in this country right now, the electorate is incomprehensibly self-interested and there is literally nothing politicians can do to fix the country so long as we sit back and do nothing but complain. Whatever shower we're left with in the House is all we deserve, blue or red.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Parallels with current Foreign Secretary. Both might have been the best leaders their respective parties never had-but shafted by their own (and in DM's case by his own brother)

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    185. private eye
    Despite his best intentions, Wilson was pm during another devaluation of the pound, so not really the best example of a leader in a time of financial turmoil.
    David M has decided that he's not making enough money as a pm so gone to the private sector instead. Not exactly the socialist icon labour voters want.
    But at least he has charisma, something his brother sorely lacks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Will the last one off the sinking ship please turn the lights out....

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    RE 156

    AS one who has been a trade unionist for nearly 50 years and a supporter of old Labour I am also one of the founders of UKIP and helped write the first manifesto. I can assure you that UKIP is nearer to the wishes of the ordinary worker than any of the three main parties which are obsessed with things like gay marriage, the politics of the Middle East or the EU. Ask the ordinary bloke

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    I had to laugh at the comment he made in his resignation letter: ' the shocking state this government has got this country in' He's having a laugh, it was his brother, B-liar, McClown and the the other clown Balls who got this country in this shocking state.How easy it is to gloss over your faults and blame everyone else.If that's his attitude he's no loss to this country or his constituents. BYE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    163. Ramilas1

    Nothing quite so revealing as the spiteful comments of one whose intellect is, now how should one put it? Not quite top table. That's probably why Mr Milliband has been head-hunted to be CEO of a prestigious world renowned US charity whilst certain others must content themselves writing vicious & envious invective on HYS. There's a moral in there if you care to look. ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Why not make comments possible on something worth commenting on?
    BTW, thanks for leaving us with your useless pie-faced brother, Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Oh dear. The negative comments on here are ridiculous. Politicians are constantly condemned and told to give up and leave. Then when one politician decides to give up and leave, you condemn him for that, too! It's not the politicians that are at fault. It's YOU! Because you just want to always have to say something negative no matter what. Insecure and sad people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Wonder how much he will earn from his "Charity". Just like Tony Blair who ironically is now a peace mediator (you could not make it up) most of our political elite are only after lining their own nest, and they wonder why no one bothers to vote or is voting for UKIP. UK politics=Self serving muppets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Agreed, Labour is a joke, led by Ed Milliband, but it's too early for Cameron to start smirking, Labour have got Balls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Louise Mensch has a point mind you. She was crucified for quitting mid term, despite the fact that she was obviously suffering family issues.A misogynistic media and political class in action.

    Unfortunately , the sheep of South Shields will vote his replacement in without a murmur, as night follows day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Why has he given up now? At least see out the term you are elected for you selfish so and so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.


    Finally Labour politicians showing their true colours; DB and the rest don't give a faeces about the people or their country and never have."

    *All* politicians, not just Labour. Do you really think Gideon gives a damn about you unless you are a substantial party sponsor?

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Spoilt brat. Couldn't get the job he wanted so has taken his toys out of the nursery. Just another pretend leftie

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Is this just a cynical attempt to cleanse himself of Labours legacy?
    Back in politics in time for the next election...


Page 48 of 59


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