Ed Miliband crowned new leader of Britain's Labour Party

25th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former climate change minister Ed Miliband was elected the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party on Saturday, beating his older brother David in a knife-edge race.

After a five-month contest, Ed Miliband won by 50.65 percent to 49.35 percent for David, the former foreign minister, who led until the final days.

The left-leaning 40-year-old faces a battle to reshape the centre-left party of former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which suffered a heavy defeat in the general election in May after 13 years in power.

Ed Miliband enjoyed a last-minute surge after a campaign which reached out to Labour's traditional left-wing supporters.

As soon as the result was announced to Labour party delegates gathered in a conference hall in Manchester, northwest England, David Miliband jumped to his feet and embraced his brother as huge cheers rang out.

Ed Miliband told party members that a new generation had taken over and was hungry for the fight against Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

"Today's election turns the page because a new generation has stepped forward to serve our party and in time I hope to serve our country. Today the work of the new generation begins," Miliband said.

He added: "I am proud of the leadership of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but we lost the election, and we lost it badly.

"And my message to the country is this -- I know we lost trust, I know we lost touch, I know we need to change."

The leadership contest was triggered in May when Brown resigned following the election defeat.

David Miliband was until very recently the frontrunner to win the ballot of Labour lawmakers, party members and trade unionists.

But after a surprise boost in support, his sibling Ed, formerly part of Brown's inner circle, suddenly surged to the front.

The younger Miliband also beat competition from former education secretary Ed Balls, ex-health secretary Andy Burnham and leftwing outsider Diane Abbott.

ED Miliband only became a member of parliament in 2005 and held the post of secretary of state for energy and climate change in the last government, becoming a vocal supporter of moves to curb global warming.

One of the biggest challenges facing the new leader is how to respond to drastic spending cuts planned by Cameron's coalition to rein in Britain's huge deficit, with details due in a comprehensive spending review on October 20.

He also faces a tough choice on tactics over the prospect of coordinated strike action against the cuts.

If Labour fails to support the strikes, it risks annoying union bosses and activists, but if it does, it could alienate members of the public hostile to the action.

His first test however is facing the party faithful, as Labour kicks off its five-day conference in Manchester on Sunday to thrash out where it stands in the new political landscape.

© 2010 AFP

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