Labour conference: David Miliband back in spotlight

 
David Miliband David Miliband clearly enjoyed being back in the limelight

Can it really be a year since Ed Miliband pipped older brother David to the Labour leadership? As the party's annual conference gets under way in Liverpool, we watch David address delegates and ask if the right brother got the job.

"I am just a little bit in love with David Miliband. Don't tell my husband though!"

Veronica Soliba is showing off her new Facebook profile picture, featuring a grinning David Miliband with his arm around her.

She is excited because she has just watched her political hero address a packed fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.

The all-ticket affair is the former foreign secretary's one-and-only appearance in Liverpool. By the time Ed addresses the party faithful on Tuesday, the elder Miliband brother will be in the US.

David says he does not want to deflect attention from his younger brother, and insists, in a BBC interview, that rumours of a rift between the two are "hooey and nonsense".

The message does not appear to have got through to Veronica, however, who tells me she thinks it is high time the two rival camps stopped fighting and started working together for the sake of the party.

"I hope I don't get into trouble for saying that," she adds.

Tieless and lean

Not everyone at the meeting is as big a fan as Veronica. Linda Wooding, a member of the party's National Policy Forum, says she voted for David in the leadership election but now backs Ed (his response to the phone hacking scandal was the turning point, apparently).

But there is more than a hint of David mania outside the venue. Party members and hacks jostle for position, as Miliband, tieless and lean, in a crisp white shirt, sweeps in, trailed by a TV crew.

Linda Wooding Linda Wooding voted for David - but now backs Ed

Officially, he is here to promote Movement for Change - a new campaign to recruit 10,000 "community organisers" to the Labour Party's cause based around Barack Obama's election-winning effort.

But the media pack have not queued up for half an hour to hear a debate about the reorganisation of the Labour Party. They want the thoughts of the Miliband many had long thought would be the man to succeed Gordon Brown.

So does the audience, who whoop and cheer as the South Shields MP is introduced.

"It feels like the X Factor panel," jokes fellow speaker Labour MP Stella Creasey, adding: "I hope I'm not the Louis".

'Do it yourself'

Mr Miliband is clearly enjoying being back in the limelight, but he dutifully answers the audience's questions on the value of community organisers before delivering a 20 minute speech on his vision for Labour's future.

There are no digs at Ed - subtle or otherwise - but there a few hints at the sort of speech he might have given this week if things had turned out differently last year.

Sally Mulready and David Miliband Sally Mulready was among the party members who queued up to see David Miliband in action

He speaks of the difference between the Conservatives, who he says believe in a "do it yourself Britain" and Labour, which believes in a "do it together" Britain.

But, he adds, "we often fall into the trap of looking like we believe in 'we'll do it for you Britain' - we, the politicians, the state 'will do it for you'.

"And I think in our latter years in government, the balance between rights and responsibilities, between popular action, got out of kilter.

"That's why there was the space created for the Tories to move in, as the party of the Big Society."

He also launches an impassioned attack on the "shocking" actions of the coalition government on tuition fees, the economy and range of other subjects.

And he calls on Labour to rediscover its roots as a party of the people, to deal with what he describes as the demands of a far from "normal" political times.

"We're all here because we want to put Ed into Downing Street, we want to put Labour into government. We want to put the country on the right track.

"What I have said tonight is that if we are going to do that, we have to understand our country better.

"We have got to broaden our family so that we represent the country better and we are going to have to govern the country in a different way."

It would be misleading to suggest that there is widespread unhappiness in Liverpool with Ed Miliband's leadership - or that conference delegates wish David was their leader instead.

Most seem to want to see David back in frontline politics though. And some of his supporters still hanker after the "star quality" they believe he brought to the party, even as they throw their weight behind Ed.

"We have the leader we have and we will work with him," says Sally Mulready, a Labour councillor from Hackney.

"We are very united. Everybody said there would be a schism last year, that the party would tear itself asunder and it didn't."

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 11.

    For all his weaknesses as a politician - and I think lack of bottle is probably the greatest - David Milliband will be remebered as the man who blew his chance to become leader of the opposition and Ed will be remebered as the man whose brother should have been in his post.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 10.

    Whether it be Milliband, Cameron, Brown it makes no difference. Until a politician arrives who is not self-centred, self-serving and in bed with the people responsible for the mess we are in now we do not stand a chance. What is needed is not a 'millionaire' Prime Minister but an average, hard working and experienced in 'life' person to take charge.

    At present we have no one..

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 9.

    Yawn Yawn Yawn - who cares about these Chuckle brothers or any of the rest of the rabble that got us in this mess

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 8.

    The Labour Party, probably correctly, is seen by the electorate as the party of immigrants and benefit claimers. There is no way it could ever be electable after the past dreadful 13 years of NuLaba misrule which damned near wrecked this country, particularly under the Brown Balls "stewardship". Get a Labour government and the Tories have clean up the mess afterwards and take the flak for it.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 7.

    eachtime a party has a conference they seem to suddenly realise that they need to tap into the electorate psychi as if it some new revelation.
    All this means is that the MPs have forgotten how to relate to the general public and feel that the electorate are the ones who are at fault for the failings of their policies.
    One day we might have a party that join its policies up.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 6.

    The Tories have proved that they are just as adept at borrowing as Labour.
    To use the tried old tested Tory phrase, The Conservatives are not Working.
    Looking at the tack records of the Tories and Labour there is not much difference they are just as bad and inept as each other. Or maybe I should say just as good as each other.Only difference are the schools.

  • rate this
    +33

    Comment number 5.

    Whoever is leader of the party, if they get elected will be another disaster for the country. Listen to Ed Balls saying that the markets are grown up and would magically understand Labour splurging out again on spending and borrowing. How naive can you get? Not only do they not learn from history, they learn nothing from the present.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 4.

    Miliband is a Foot and Kinnock in waiting. You know the man will never be elected, he lacks leadership, charisma and public empathy.

    Milliband is a public school boy who has never had a job, his party has no raison d'etere, they took the uk into an illegal war and bankrupted it, why would you vote for him!

    Scotland was his biggest test and he failed miserably!


    Power to the SNP!

    C McK

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 3.

    I'm sure they're both competent people with much to recommend them to the party.

    However, I think for the broader electoral audience, David would have been the winning choice - and in their heart of hearts most Labour party members - and their core supporters - know this, but are making the best of things.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 2.

    Personally I find both of them a pair of drips. Neither resonate with the British public or will stand a chance at the next election.

  • rate this
    -26

    Comment number 1.

    I was ready for Labour to be gone at the last election but now I see things have got far, far worse under the Tories and the FIBerals. I think their policies are ill planned and are devastating our economy. Now I cannot wait for Labour to return. Ed Miliband may not be perfect but we need him right now.

 

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