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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'