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

    Comment number 51.

    Ed talking figures. Balls!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    For the Labour bashers, remember that labour saved our services after the butchering of the previous Tory years. Also remember when the Tories friends (Bankers) brought the world economy to its knees, it was Gordon who got the world leaders together and organised away forward, our economy was growing when the Condems took over and look where we are now. Tory Ideology will destroy us, G-D save us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Further rant on David Sonofblair Miliband (as opposed to Dave 'n' Ed Blairlite) - why is he swanning off to the USA for more party business instead of doing his day job as an MP? As an MP he should work for his constituents, not for lobbyists or party donors! When and where did our democracy get replaced by finance and self interest groups? Why don't the press even ask MPs who they work for?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The current political apathy is no surprise when all the parties trot out the same tripe every time they open their mouths. "we must understand our country better" is an admission that they aren't doing their job properly. If you go back to every election for the last 30 years, pick a politician, pick a soundbite and they are all the same - "we didn't listen". perhaps after so long, they ought to

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The fact that neither brother seems capable of putting family rivalry before the interests of the party, says to me that neither Miliband is an appropriate party leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    As an anti-Labour person, Ed Miliband is the best thing that could have happened to the Labour party. He is shallow, disconnected with reality, and comes across in the media as 'a bit of a drip'.

    If Labour (and specifically the Unions, since they essentially were responsible for choosing him as leader) wanted to guarantee an election defeat for themselves, then they made the right choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I've always thought that David Miliband to be the best choice for Labour leader. I've nothing against his brother, but David seems to have the qualities that make a leader, and, of course, the experience in government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Thank goodness Scotland is well on the way towards independence, then we can leave these half baked efforts of Westminster polticians behind.

    Scotland is so blessed by having a true statesman at the helm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Ed won not because he did a deal with the unions but because he was the only viable candidate to step away from the orthodox view that Labour had done nothing wrong in govt. David may be more cosmetically attractive as a political standard bearer but I'd rather have a potential PM who has the capacity for independent thought. David M and Dave C and Nick C are photo-fit composites. Ed is different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Politics' direction in this country is already heading the wayof the US, where the press focus on PR & spin, good looks & charisma win over policies & worst of all, a large percentage of the ever shrinking electorate vote along party lines, irrespective of the party leadership or policies. The country gets the government they deserve, I just wish we had better choices than Devil or deep blue sea!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    David Miliband probably is the best Labour have got.

    But really that just shows the dearth of actual talent and statesmanship within Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    One of the few people, along with Rory Stewart, a Tory, who has spoken any sense on the subject of the Middle East.
    Forget the tabloid headlines, the jibes, which there are bound to be, promote the man, he clearly has talent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    The Tory tactic of blaming the previous Gov't got old a long time ago, and is no longer an excuse.
    However, that also doesn't excuse the Labour shift in tactics - the "I can't tell you our plans because we don't know what state the economy will be in" echo of the Tories before the last election. It's part of the reason I refused to vote Tory, and why I also now will not vote Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    What about Harieth Harman the 'deputy' what does she bring to lead this country? Labour have to ask themselves whom their leaders are. Balls, is a no no, as well as his wife. The party does not have anyone of credible standing at the momment and the electorate can see this. This country needs a coalition government for the next 3-4 parliaments to get back on track. No one party should rule alone

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Gosh, all these political parties are so stuck in the past it's unbelievable.

    They read their scripts robotically from the ancient template - I wonder if they are actually alive.

    For sure they do nothing for the country, and when the tsunami of the second recession or depression arrives they will have done not one single thing to protect us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @20 mikeriverside. I would have more sympathy for your view of democracy if it weren't for the fact that that the Tories allow the super rich to do exactly the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Sally, the Labour councillor from Hackney is wrong, the party is split in two and we can all see it. Ed reminds me of Kinnock a bright but boring sort of guy,not like his brother Mr Charisma. Apart from his phone hacking success he has made a pretty bad job of attacking the most rightwing government in years with a failing economy He also needs to distance himself from the unions who elected him

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I couldn't actually care less about which brother is at the conference. Neither of them are capable of doing this country any good, but then the labaour party as a whole isn't either.

    Problem is there are a few too many people that will believe the spin and vote for them. People need to open their eyes to the truth. Oh and I don't like to Tory's either !

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Neither of the Millibands have the charisma or political drive to capture the nation's plight. To be fair, there's no-one in political from any of the parties that has the character that the nation would follow right now. Also, I wish people would stop harping on about how Labour's term caused this position. Every govnt has done this to the country in the past, that's why new ones get elected in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    No, the wrong brother got the job. The first priority for Labour is to get rid of Balls and second, somehow get David back. There is just a complete lack of credibility with the current setup and any fightback must start with some changes.


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