Door still open as a 'massive talent' departs to the back benches

Ed Miliband held out the prospect of a return to frontline politics for his older brother, David, last night, admitting that the quality of Labour's top team had been hit hard by the departure of a "massive talent" to the back benches.

After days of agonising, David Miliband concluded that his presence in the Shadow Cabinet would provide too great a distraction – and a potential source of discord – for the party and backtracked on a pledge to serve under his brother if defeated in the leadership contest.

The fallout from the dramatic battle between the Milibands for the Labour crown, which Ed won by the slimmest of margins, dominated the final full day of the party's conference in Manchester. The younger brother now faces the challenge of rebuilding relations with Blairites, who are aghast that their favourite son has been forced to quit the Labour front bench.

In an early move to heal the wounds, Ed Miliband yesterday forced Nick Brown, a long-standing ally and confidant of Gordon Brown, to step down as Chief Whip.

In a letter to his constituency party in South Shields, David Miliband said he would not stand for election to his brother's Shadow Cabinet, but confirmed he would remain as an MP. He made his announcement as nominations closed for the Shadow Cabinet.

The final blow to his political ambitions came when he was caught on camera denouncing his brother's criticism of the Iraq war, forcing him to conclude that he would be a permanent distraction if he remained in the public eye.

Ed Miliband praised him for reaching a "typically thoughtful, mature and courageous decision" and signalled heavily he wanted him to return to frontline politics. "I am very clear that, as leader of this party, my door is always open for him to serve in the future, either in opposition or back in government," he said. "He is a massive talent for our party and indeed for our country, and I'm certainly not going to hide the fact that he's my brother and I have the highest regard for him, and I think we would have been a stronger team with him in it."

David Miliband, who had been backed in the leadership contest by the majority of the Shadow Cabinet, had been urged to remain in the top team by close allies. But the divisions between the brothers over strategy for tackling the deficit made it unrealistic for him to serve as shadow Chancellor. The recriminations over the Iraq war also meant it would have been hugely difficult to continue as shadow Foreign Secretary.

David Miliband said in his letter that he believed Labour would be more able to make "a fresh start" if he stood down. "This is now Ed's party to lead and he needs to be able to do so as free as possible from distraction," he wrote. "Any new leader needs time and space to set his or her own direction, priorities and policies. I believe this will be harder if there is constant comparison with my comments and position as a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

"This is because of the simple fact that Ed is my brother who has just defeated me for the leadership. I genuinely fear perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where there is none and splits where they don't exist, all to the detriment of the party's cause." He said he wanted to "recharge my political and intellectual batteries" after 16 years in senior political positions.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
News
John Cleese is promoting his new book
people
News
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
news
News
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
News
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
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

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
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