LONDON – Former British foreign secretary David Miliband – son of
Polish Jews who fled the Holocaust – once tipped as a potential prime minister,
said on Wednesday he was leaving politics to boost his brother’s chances of
leading the opposition Labour party to victory in an election in 2015.
departure ends speculation Miliband might replace brother Ed Miliband as Labour
leader between now and 2015 if his sibling falters. But the move was also seen
as a sign he did not think it likely that Ed would win.
47, had already retreated from frontline politics after narrowly losing a Labour
leadership election in 2010 which pitted him against Ed, 43.
between the brothers gripped the British political world. David was viewed as
the more gifted politician and most Labor MPs backed him, but the trade union
movement, the bedrock of Labour support, tipped the vote in favor of
Miliband said he was stepping down as a Labour MP to take up a job in
New York as head of the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian
Although Labour is 10 points ahead of the ruling
Conservative party in polls, many MPs think the lead should be much greater at
this stage in the election cycle given the grim state of the
They are concerned the party is still not trusted on the economy
by voters. Some Labour supporters also think Ed Miliband has been slow to prove
his credibility and polls show many voters cannot imagine him as prime
David Miliband said on Wednesday his decision to leave British
politics altogether would boost Labor’s chances of winning the next election by
ending speculation he was waiting in the wings to stage a comeback if his
brother was ousted.
“I know that the country faces very big challenges,”
he told BBC TV. “I want Labor to be able to address those issues in an
uninhibited way and I think that with my departure that can now
He said he feared being a distraction to the main
“It’s unusual to have two brothers in a Cabinet or a shadow
Cabinet. It’s very, very unusual, I think unique, to have two brothers fighting
a leadership election. I don’t want to be a bit-part player in a soap
Allies and detractors said they thought his decision to relocate
to the United States was a sign he believed his brother would not win the next
election and therefore be able to give him a high-profile job in any new
“It does show a lack of confidence about Labour winning the
next election,” Peter Bone, an MP in the ruling Conservative party, told
Reuters. “If he thought Labor had a good chance of winning he would have stayed.
He clearly has doubts whether Ed Miliband can win.”
An online poll in the
left-leaning The Guardian newspaper showed most readers thought his move was a
bad thing for Labor, but a good thing for his brother as it removed a possible
threat to his leadership.
Miliband himself was downbeat on his party’s
“I think the party’s doing well under Ed’s leadership but he's
the first to say it’s a long climb and we never underestimate that,” he
Former prime minister Tony Blair, to whom Miliband was close, said
he was young enough to reenter British politics.
“I hope and believe this
is time out not time over,” Blair said in a statement.