British opposition urged to forget brothers' 'soap opera'

27th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

David Miliband on Monday urged Britain's opposition Labour Party to forget the "soap opera" of his sibling rivalry with his younger brother Ed, who beat him to the party leadership.

The former foreign minister begged the party to unite behind Ed and bury the bitter infighting seen between former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but refused to say if he would serve under his brother.

Ed defeated his better-known older brother by a narrow majority in a surprise outcome to the centre-left party's leadership race on Saturday, leaving David considering his future.

Ed Miliband was a close Brown aide, while David was firmly in the Blair camp, putting them on opposing sides of the warring factions during the party's 13 years in power which were ended by defeat in May's general election.

But David Miliband told Labour's annual conference in Manchester, northwest England, that the party must give its undivided loyalty to his brother if they wanted to oust the Conservative-Liberal coalition from government.

"No more cliques, no more factions, no more soap opera, one united Labour Party taking on one divided government," he said.

"I have been incredibly honoured and humbled by the support you have given me but we have a great new leader and we have to get behind him.

"Above all I'm incredibly proud of my brother. Ed is a special person to me. Now he is a special person to you and our job is to make him a special person for all the British people."

David Miliband arrived in Manchester hoping to deliver the leader's speech on Tuesday, but had to deliver his back-up address as the foreign affairs spokesman instead.

His rousing speech, made without notes, gave party members a glimpse of what they might have had with him as leader.

Watched by Ed Miliband from the platform, his address received a lengthy standing ovation and cheers from party members in the auditorium, before he hugged his brother.

But though they stood arm in arm on stage, David Miliband is still refusing to say whether he will put himself forward to serve in Ed's shadow Cabinet.

He has until Wednesday to stand for election as one of the party's front-bench spokesmen, scrutinising the government.

"This is a conference not about me but about Ed's leadership," David Miliband told reporters as he arrived at the Manchester Central conference venue.

"I am not going to get into this until conference is well and truly done and Ed's got his speech out of the way.

"I came here on Saturday planning a slightly different week, just a slightly different week, so I am now thinking what I am going to do instead."

The Miliband saga is the talk of the conference, with delegates debating long into the night in Manchester's bars and hotels about how the party's future will pan out.

With British media relishing the sibling rivalry, it was the elder brother's future that dominated Monday's agenda.

Ed, 40, only narrowly beat David, 45, thanks to strong backing from trade union members. He is already fighting off accusations from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party that he is the unions' puppet.

Asked as he arrived at the conference venue Monday about whether he had offered his brother the top position of finance spokesman, the new Labour leader said only that David was "incredibly loyal both to me and the party".

"There is no psycho-drama," he said.

"He'll make his own decision about what's best to do... that is a decision for him and he'll make the decision in his own right.

"He needs his own time to think about what he's going to do I think he has a huge amount to offer our politics."

Ed Miliband is due to address the conference on Tuesday, after which all eyes will again be on whether his brother will stand for the shadow Cabinet.

© 2010 AFP

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