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UK Politics

David Miliband to stay off front bench to 'avoid creating soap opera'


David Miliband today said he would stay off the Labour front benches to avoid creating a “soap opera”.

The former leadership candidate told BBC Breakfast that suggestions he should return to the shadow cabinet were “flattering”, but he added: “I think I was right to say 'Look, I've lost the leadership election'.”

He said remaining on the back benches would allow his brother Ed, who defeated him in the 2010 poll, to lead.

“Ed needs the space to lead the Labour Party as he sees fit. I can help Labour at the grassroots.

“I am trying to make sure we are taking our message all over the country and not being in the shadow cabinet allows me to do that. I can minimise the amount of soap opera by not being in the shadow cabinet.”

When it was suggested that an essay he wrote in the New Statesman, laying out a seven-point plan for the party, had already re-started the “soap opera” that surrounded their relationship, he said: “I promise you the soap opera is not back and certainly not back for daily episodes with me in frontline politics.

“I think that the really important thing is that the country sees that the Labour Party is renewing itself, which it is under Ed's leadership, and that it is able to have real discussion about the future of the country.

He added: “I think he's doing it with purpose, with conviction, with some success actually in a number of areas.

“He's raising the health service issue today and I think that is the right thing to do.”

Asked if he would stand if there was a leadership contest, he said: “There is not going to be one, Ed has been elected to fight the next election and I think he is going to fight it with real courage and conviction.”

Discussing the subject of youth unemployment, Mr Miliband said young people in work should mentor those out of work.

Addressing the findings of an inquiry on the issue, he said: “I think there are three really big problems. First we have got to prepare young people for a different world of work and we have got to prepare them better.

“Secondly, if they do become unemployed we help them back into work faster and with more intensive help, and thirdly we have got to make sure there is proper demand for labour among young people, we would like wage subsidies brought in for young people, we would like to see apprenticeships not just expanded but organised on a national scale.

“We also think that young people can help each other. We are going to say today that any young person in work for over a year should mentor a young person who is out of work for over year because this problem is really chronic and this is something we can tackle.”

He rejected the claim that immigration has added to the problem of youth unemployment.

“We have looked at the allegation it was benefit rates that was causing unemployment, that it was the minimum wage, or that it was migration, and what we found was that some of the areas with the highest young unemployment had the lowest levels of migration from outside the UK.

“We didn't find the connection that says it's immigration that has caused unemployment. It just didn't stack up in the economic statistics that were done in an independent way.”

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Miliband denied levelling criticism at his brother's leadership of the Labour Party but said he had never taken a vow of silence.

He insisted he wanted Ed to become prime minister at the next general election and that they both agreed about the need to "rethink" Labour's approach.

Mr Miliband said it was "quite wrong" to interpret the New Statesman article on the challenge facing Labour as an attack on his brother, who narrowly beat him to the Labour leadership in 2010.

"I agree with Ed that the right thing for the party is to rethink its approach," he said.

He acknowledged that he had not discussed the article with his brother in advance.

He maintained that he had no interest in "re-fighting" the leadership election but would speak out on issues he wanted to.

"I lost an election. I didn't take a decision not to think. I didn't take a Trappist vow that said that I'm never going to say anything again," he said.

"I lost an election, I've no interest in re-fighting a leadership election.

"The only election I care about is the general election under Ed's leadership which the Labour Party needs to win for the good of the country."

Mr Miliband said he wanted his brother to win the planned 2015 general election because "he's my brother, he's the leader of my party and because I think he can make a big difference to the country".

He added: "He's the best man to lead Labour into the next election."

He said he had stepped back from frontline politics to avoid a "daily soap opera", but stressed that he "didn't stop thinking".

"I think Ed has shown in 18 months a willingness to engage on the big and difficult arguments that the country desperately needs," he said.

"The important thing is that, when I think I've got something to say and I think it will help Labour and help the country and help the debate, I should be able to say it and I do say it."