Labour leader Ed Miliband says his brother David’s decision to quit as an MP and move to a US-based charity leaves UK politics “a poorer place”.

He spoke after David Miliband announced he was to accept the “new challenge and new start” of running the International Rescue Committee in New York.

The former foreign secretary, 47, was beaten by a narrow margin by brother Ed in the 2010 Labour leadership contest.

David said it was “very difficult” to leave Parliament and UK politics.

Analysis

image of Norman Smith Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel


So does David Miliband’s departure strengthen or weaken his brother ?

His friends insist his departure deprives Labour of a figure who would have brought experience and authority to Labour’s front bench.

It’s argued he would have enabled Labour to better reach out beyond its core vote and to attract those elusive southern voters.

He may also have helped re-fashion Labour’s stance on the economy and so regained the party more credibility on the economy.

And yet there were also clear dangers.

A return to the shadow cabinet could have just prompted endless sibling psychodrama stories.

The Labour leader’s supporters could reasonably argue their man isn’t doing so bad without the help of his brother.

And while in the Westminster village the pros and cons of the most senior remaining Blairite’s departure will be much mulled over, outside, life goes on.

But after serving as an MP for 12 years, he said: “I now have to make a choice about how to give full vent to my ideas and ideals.”

David Miliband was long seen as a future Labour leader, with supporters of Tony Blair pushing him to stand against Gordon Brown when Mr Blair stepped down as prime minister and Labour leader in 2007.

There were also frequent reports that he was set to challenge Mr Brown during the three years he was prime minister before leading Labour to defeat at the 2010 election.

Instead of challenging, he bided his time and entered the post-election Labour leadership contest as overwhelming favourite – only to lose to his younger brother, who gained more union votes but fewer votes from Labour members and Labour MPs.

The bitter disappointment and strained relations led to David Miliband deciding to step down from the Labour front bench to, as he put it in his letter of resignation, “give Ed the space and the same time the support he needed to lead the party without distraction”.

Wednesday’s announcement seemingly brings to an end the almost constant rumours that he was set for a return to the opposition front bench.

In his statement Ed Miliband said: “Having spoken to him a lot over the past few months, I know how long and hard he thought about this before deciding to take up the offer. I also know how enthusiastic he is about the potential this job provides.

“We went through a difficult leadership contest but time has helped to heal that. I will miss him. But although he is moving to America, I know he will always be there to offer support and advice when I need it.”

David Miliband’s decision will spark a by-election in South Shields, where he has been MP since 2001, although the timing of any vote is not yet known.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said David Miliband “has clearly concluded he does not want to return to the fray, he doesn’t want to serve under his brother in opposition or in government which is a serious blow to his brother, and disappointment to members of the party”.

American violinist

In his letter to his constituency party chairman, David Miliband said the International Rescue Committee was founded in the 1930s at Albert Einstein’s suggestion to help people fleeing the Nazis. And his own family history – his parents both fled Germany in the 1930s – meant “I feel that in doing this job I will be repaying a personal debt”.

David Miliband

  • Studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University
  • From 1994 to 1997 was head of policy for Tony Blair, and from 1997 to 2001 was head of his policy unit in Downing Street
  • In June 2002 was appointed Schools Minister
  • Various ministerial appointments followed, and in June 2007 became foreign secretary
  • Married to Louise, a violinist, they have two sons – Isaac and Jacob

“This job brings together my personal story and political life – it represents a new challenge and a new start.”

The MP, who is vice-chairman and non-executive director of Sunderland Football Club, is married to American violinist Louise Shackelton and the couple have two children.

Tony Blair, former Labour leader and prime minister, said: “I congratulate David on his appointment to a major international position. It shows the huge regard in which David is held worldwide. I’m sure he will do a great job. He is obviously a massive loss to UK politics.

“He was the head of my policy unit and then a truly distinguished minister in the government and remains one of the most capable progressive thinkers and leaders globally. I hope and believe this is time out, not time over.”

David Miliband’s former cabinet colleagues, Lord Mandelson and Jack Straw, said they did not think it was the end of his political career.

“I think he has a future in politics… I think I know a little bit about comebacks in politics and, to coin a phrase, if I can come back [then] David Miliband can come back – and I think he will,” said Lord Mandelson.

Mr Straw said he would be “welcomed back into the Labour movement”.

As well as tributes from Labour colleagues, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps added: “He has contributed a great deal to British politics and we wish him well.”

Former US President Bill Clinton congratulated the charity on appointing Mr Miliband, saying: “I have known David almost 20 years. He is one of the ablest, most creative public servants of our time.”

But Labour MP John Mann described David Miliband as “the man who would have been prime minister if he had ever asked

BBC

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