Just a few days after Ed Miliband appears centre stage, his older brother exits stage right.
Let’s be honest the departure of David Miliband from frontline British politics was inevitable. At least it has been since Saturday when he lost the election for leadership of the Labour Party. Anyone observing the man who has carried the mantle of “future leader” of the party for over a decade as his defeat was made public will have seen grief behind the brave face. It was the face of a man who in that moment realised that not only had he lost the leadership but that it was going to be impossible for him to remain in the Shadow Cabinet. Not because of any policy differences he might have with his brother (which in truth are few in number) but because of the simple fact that he is better than is brother. He is a more experienced and polished politician – you just have to compare their performances on the conference platform on Monday (David) and Tuesday (Ed). He knows that as long as he is around, the predictable comparisons between the two siblings would not play in the favour of the new leader and having lived through the turbulent Blair/Brown relationship he understands just how distracting and destabilising that kind of tension can be. So this fine and clever man is bowing out. It is a great loss to the Labour Party and to British politics as a whole. On a human level, it is a tragedy.
But let us not forget that to a large extent David M is the author of his own demise. Over the past three and a half years, he had at least three opportunities to become leader and squandered them. And even if you give him credit for not challenging Brown (which some people do), then you have to question the campaign he ran over the summer. His team assumed he was going to win and acted accordingly. There were a few too many complaints from Shadow ministers and backbenchers about complacency, high-handedness and even arrogance. There is also a sense that just when Ed was going full steam ahead, David had taken his foot off the accelerator. He lost it. And so joins the ranks of the likes of Richard Crossman and Michael Heseltine who did not live up to their political potential. Indeed perhaps David is the Portillo of this generation.