David Miliband admitted yesterday that his younger brother Ed was likely to stand against him for the Labour leadership but insisted their close relationship would survive such a battle.
The recently departed former foreign secretary said: "My view is: the more the better. Family is more important and deeper than politics." He added: "The most important thing for both of us is that the family remains strong and I'm absolutely confident that that's going to happen, whatever my brother decides."
As he began a nationwide tour – what he called an attempt to learn the lessons from Labour's defeat – he said the brothers had talked about the leadership election and their mother would remain neutral if they both ran. He said it was important that "as many candidates as possible are given the chance to declare themselves". Describing his brother as "immensely talented," he promised to not say "anything negative" about his rivals in the campaign.
Although Ed Miliband, the former energy and climate change secretary, has not said he is running, his allies have confirmed he is considering it.
While some Labour insiders think Ed Miliband may yet rally behind his brother, David's remarks suggest they have decided that it would be better to stand and let the best man win. Some Labour figures, including Charles Clarke, say Gordon Brown would have found it easier to come to terms with Tony Blair becoming party leader in 1994 if he had stood against him and lost rather than allowing him a free run.
Ed Balls, the former schools secretary, is preparing for a leadership bid and made it clear he felt the party should not be bounced into making a swift choice. He said yesterday he was "obviously talking to people" about running and Labour's defeat. "I am not going to jump to quick conclusions," he said. "I think the pretty strong message from the Parliamentary Labour Party is they want to make sure we talk about what's happened in the election. I'm going to take that very seriously and talk to people in the parliamentary party and the wider Labour Party too. I'll decide in due course. I think the party wants a proper debate."
Tom Watson, a Brownite and an ally of Mr Balls, said the party should "slow down, be calm and think" and not select a new leader until its annual conference in September. Other Labour MPs want the process completed by July.
Michael Dugher, a former press spokesman for Mr Brown elected as MP for Barnsley East last week, said: "I will support Ed Balls. He's not said whether he will stand, I hope he does."
A contest between Mr Balls and David Miliband would be unlikely to reopen old wounds in the party, Mr Dugher insisted. "It won't be Brown versus Blair, it will be David Miliband versus anyone else who throws their hat into the ring." Other possible contenders include the former health secretary Andy Burnham and the popular backbencher Jon Cruddas. Jack Straw, the former justice secretary, said he would not be a candidate and will stand down from the front bench after 23 years.
Mr Brown, in his first public appearance since resigning as Prime Minister, joked that he had considered taking courses in communication skills and public relations. Speaking at Adam Smith College in his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, he said: "I was thinking of coming in today and applying for the course on communication skills, then I thought I might do public relations, then maybe media management, drama and performance." Mr Brown added that he would stay on as the area's MP.