70 Labour peers back David Miliband for leader

David Miliband appeared to further cement his position as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership race yesterday after receiving the backing of 70 of his party's peers.

They signed a letter stating that the former foreign secretary was the only candidate who could prevent Labour from staying out of power for the next decade.

The group, including the former home secretary Lord Reid, ex-transport secretary Lord Adonis and the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, said the party needed to change not "by looking inward and backwards" but by "reaching out and looking forward". Other signatories included Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Lord Puttnam and Lord Bragg.

Their support will be seen as a significant boost to the campaign of Mr Miliband, who has also received backing from more than 90 Labour MPs, as well as nominations from two trade unions and 102 Labour council and group leaders.

The peers' letter said: "Our Labour Party history shows that when we lose an election we are out of power for a decade. This time it is our responsibility to pick a leader who can buck that trend. We believe that David Miliband is that person."

The next Labour leader will have to do without the services of Jack Straw, who is to step down from frontbench politics in October after 30 years. The Blackburn MP, who served as justice secretary, home secretary, foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, said he believed the party needed a "fresh start".

Mr Straw said yesterday: "I'll be spending more time on my constituency and I will be writing a memoir in time."

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