Miliband bans Labour's poisonous briefing wars

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Indy Politics

David Miliband has attempted to head off a rift with his brother, Ed, as they compete to become Labour's next leader by banning the unattributable and negative media briefings which divided the party during years of infighting under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The race between the siblings to secure the support of Labour MPs is already well underway, with several of the party's big hitters declaring who they will be backing. But as he formally launched his campaign in his South Shields constituency yesterday, the former foreign secretary promised to avoid the briefings conducted by supporters of Mr Blair and Mr Brown during their time at the top of New Labour.

"There will be no negative briefing about other candidates. It's not my way and I won't be starting now," he said. "The people who work for me will be chosen because they don't do it either. We will tackle unattributable briefing through my named spokeswoman, Lisa Tremble.

"The Blair/Brown era is over. I am not interested in politics defined as Blairite or Brownite. New Labour isn't new any more. We learn from it. We benefit from it. We seek to emulate its successes, but not repeat its mantras."

Some supporters of Ed Balls, another likely election candidate expected to announce his candidacy this week, fear that his close association with Mr Brown may damage his chances.

Labour strategists associated with the Blair/Brown rivalry have suggested that they will take a back seat. Alastair Campbell, former director of communications for Mr Blair, has signalled his support for David Miliband, but he will not be assisting in the leadership campaign. Lord Mandelson has also said he will not endorse any candidate.

Mr Miliband said he was "very proud" of his younger brother, Ed, who he described as a "huge talent". However, the 44-year-old added that he believed he could "win the battle of ideas" to help Labour return to office.

"We lost, and lost badly, to a Conservative Party who people did not want to vote for. We were two million votes behind the Tories. In an election we could have won, we lost over 90 seats," he said. "We were not sent into retirement, but we were sent for serious rehabilitation. For too many people, we were not the people's party that was created 100 years ago, but the politicians' party. We were perceived by too many voters, our people, as out of touch."

Pressure is growing for the party to copy the timetable which the Tories followed before selecting David Cameron as leader, spending the summer having a lengthy debate on its future direction before settling on a candidate at its annual conference in September. However, others favour a July election, which may hand the advantage to the front runner, David Miliband.

Yesterday, one former cabinet member said that Ed Miliband, who has remained popular across the party, was the candidate who could unify the party. "He's a man of great principle," said Hilary Benn, former environment secretary.

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