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
    +11

    Comment number 31.

    25.labarbe
    21 Minutes ago
    #19 Ian is right. The only way labour can save itself is by castration - remove the Balls!!

    Very good ! I will remember that one and how very true.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 30.

    To carry on.We do not need Labour spend policies they will only get us further into debt. For Mr Balls to say he wants to get tough on debt when they got us into this appalling mess to start with would be funny if it was not so tragic, does that mean he will sack himself!! Will he insist on ALL MPS giving back false expense claims [it should be treble the amount with interest] Short memory he has

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 29.

    Ed Millibrain was democratically elected leader of the Labour party. The Labour MPs voted against him (doesn't count). the party rank and file voted against him(doesn't count) and a dozen union barons cast their block votes in his favour, so well done Ed. You won't wow the party conference, but you@ll go down a storm at the next TUC congress.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 28.

    23.marcd

    Tax and Spend = The way government works. Debt came from downturn and bailing out the banks
    ----
    Not to the extent where you all but bankrupt the country in doing so. Billions not millions are wasted in the public sector which is just as scandalous as Brown allowing the public, personal & corporate dept to get out of control & cause the banking collapse in THIS country.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 27.

    The scenario we are seeing played out isn't anything new.

    After the conservatives had their epic run in power, they also found themselves in the wilderness for a good number of years.

    Labour need to regroup and find their feet again as a party with some mature policies before they will be worth voting for again.

    Their time will come again, but not I'm sure, before the next election.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 26.

    Re comment 13. Labour spent money not in the kitty so now most of us have to pay one way or another. There are too many "rights" ie being on benefits for life, no cap on how many children have and benefits for each child plus rent/heating. Labour encouraged people to be lazy/over populate. The people not affected are Bankers with bonuses for failure,solicitors, two pay rises a year, MPs expenses

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 25.

    #19 Ian is right. The only way labour can save itself is by castration - remove the Balls!!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 24.

    David Miliband is nothing special.

    If this is the best missed opportunity they have, his brother looks a good choice.

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 23.

    #17 Green Future

    Tax and Spend = The way government works. Debt came from downturn and bailing out the banks (which maybe we shouldn't have done) but don't kid yourself that the conservatives or the lib dems were against Labours spending plans up until 2008, in fact they called for more money for the MOD, prison service and police.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 22.

    Every voter has to ask themselves one simple question - do you want a Prime Minister who stabbed his brother in the back to get the job?

    I think most sane people would say no.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 21.

    Is there a difference between them? Both claim they can do better than the Tories/LD despite having a chance to prove themselves when their party was in power. Ball's speech this morning has left me quite angry - they haven't learnt a darned thing and if in power would once again spend, spend, spend my taxes 'in order to grow'.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 20.

    I will not vote for Labour as long as their rules allow the trade unions to drive a combine harvester through the principles of democracy.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 19.

    Until and indeed when David takes over Labour are unelectable. There is also the need to remove Balls from the team. The fact that Labour effectively now admit they would not alter the spending plans of the current government shows the attitude Labour takes on issues is posturing. They got us into a dreadful mess - it's not just the bankers,they need to go away and spend time rebuilding themselves

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 18.

    When Wallace is away, Gromit will play

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 17.

    Either way, it will be the same old Labour tax & spend = Debt.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 16.

    I think, on balance, I still prefer Glen Miller Band !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    The tories refer to Norman Tebbitt as the greatest prime minister Britain never had, maybe he'll end up sharing the accolade with David M

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 14.

    Just like their parties' supporters, Ed & Cam do their utmost to live up to their stereotypes! The tit for tat posturing is like 'Two Tribes' with extra baby oil. Rather than preaching to or against the converted, D Miliband should look at why floating voters deserted his party and find us a way to differentiate between sets of identikit leaders with no real world experience or voter empathy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    I applaud David for this stance. We need a united opposition to this current Government, which is undermining everything in society - Education, NHS, working rights, all under attack from these remote millionaires. If you cut away at absolutely everything, the whole house of cards will collapse. Austerity-only is NOT working. The deficit is not going down and will not without growth.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 12.

    Balls tough on debt. Is that not an oxymoron ?

 

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