Miliband the elder wows the crowds

WHEN Tony Blair stood down as Prime Minister, an embarrassing memo detailing plans for his exit from office was leaked to the press. “He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won’t even play the last encore,” it read.

In the end,?Blair’s departure left the public – and the party –?strangely cold. But his disciple David Miliband, who narrowly lost out in the race to become Labour’s new leader, seems to have triumphed where his tutor failed.

Yesterday, he delivered a barnstorming speech, his best conference address ever. He was gracious in defeat, but also had a stark warning for those who want the party to tack to the left under his brother Ed. Labour went into politics “not to practice class war, but to end it,” he said.

The elder Miliband also appeared to contradict his brother and leader on foreign policy. In his campaign, Ed promised a foreign policy based on “values” not “alliances”, a nod to those Labour members who think the former government was slavishly pro-American. But yesterday David Miliband said: “It’s not the opposite of an independent foreign policy to choose to work with President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Britain’s values and interests are best pursued with a superpower whose leaders share our values and interests.”

David Miliband is refusing to say whether he will serve under Ed, but this speech sounded more like a swansong than a pitch for a shadow cabinet job. He won’t announce his intentions until tomorrow afternoon, for fear of overshadowing his brother’s big speech today. If he does go, it will certainly be with the crowds wanting more.