Behind the united front, the loser's wife sobs backstage

Reaction suggests leadership battle has left family scarred

On the Labour conference platform yesterday, the Miliband brothers embraced each other again after David, gracious in defeat, heaped praise on Ed. But behind the stage, David Miliband's wife was in floods of tears. Away from the cameras, emotions are running very high.

Louise Shackleton, who is said to be urging her husband to quit front-line politics, was consoled by him when he left the platform. Ed Miliband hovered uncomfortably, before eventually going into a side room for a nine-minute meeting with his brother.

As he agonises over whether to run for the Shadow Cabinet or return to the back benches, David is desperate not to overshadow what he calls "Ed's week". Yet the psychodrama of the Milibands continues to run and run.

Ms Shackleton, a concert violinist, is dismayed that her brother-in-law stood against her husband for the Labour leadership and upset at David's defeat.

"She cannot understand how Ed could have embarked on a course that could end David's political career," said one friend of the family.

There are still twists to come. David does not want to announce his big decision until after his brother's keynote speech today. Allies insist he has not made up his mind. "David will wake up on Wednesday morning and decide," said one. Another supporter said: "It's 50:50."

While his wife would be happy for him to turn his back on the front bench, political allies are pressing him to stand in the Shadow Cabinet election – the members are decided by Labour MPs.

Shadow ministers including Tessa Jowell, Jim Murphy, Alistair Darling and Liam Byrne are thought to have lobbied him not to walk away.

MPs recalled that Ms Jowell led a similar operation by Blairites to persuade Tony Blair not to stand down as Prime Minister in 2004 at his nadir after the Iraq war. That pressure paid off. The lobbying of David Miliband may prove less successful.

"He will be accused of petulance if he doesn't stand," said one of his campaign team. "But if he stays in the Shadow Cabinet, he will be accused of sitting on his brother's shoulder.

"The media will constantly be looking for differences between them and asking 'What did David mean by that?' There is a strong argument for giving Ed the space he needs as leader."

However, a prominent Blairite argued: "David is being urged to stay and fight. If we don't win under Ed, we will need him to be around to pick up the pieces after the next election – even if he were not the candidate next time."

Some Blairites are urging Ed Miliband to appoint his brother to the key post of Shadow Chancellor. They say that would reassure middle-class voters that the party would not veer to the left under its new leader. But other MPs fear that would be a recipe for trouble since the Miliband brothers have different views on how quickly the £155bn deficit should be reduced. David backed Mr Darling's policy to halve it over four years, while Ed regards that as only the "starting point" and wants to "improve" it.

Another option would be for David to remain in his current post of Shadow Foreign Secretary. That would limit the scope for disagreements with his brother and give him a longer period to reflect on his future. It would also allow him to quit British politics if an international job came up in the future – though there is no guarantee that would happen.

There is bitterness among David's allies that Ed did not make his leadership ambitions clear when David was offered the chance to become the European Union's first "foreign minister" last year.

David won a standing ovation at the conference when he opened a debate on foreign affairs, leaving some delegates to wonder whether the party had made the right choice on Saturday when it elected Ed by a wafer-thin majority.

Urging Labour to end the "cliques, factions and soap opera" that disfigured the Blair-Brown era, David said: "We have a great new leader and we all have to get behind him. I am really, really, really proud. I am so proud of my campaign. I am so proud of my party. But above all I am incredibly proud of my brother.

"I see Ed as a special person to me. Now he is a special person to you and our job is to make him a special person for all the British people."

Ed Miliband sought to play down the tensions: "There is no psychodrama. David and I have been extremely close during this contest, before the contest and after this contest, and the graciousness he has shown since Saturday speaks volumes about him as a person."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches