Miliband will be 'fighting hard' after his time off work

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Indy Politics

Former Blairites who carp at Ed Miliband's leadership are like "twitching corpses", the Labour leader's former rival, Ed Balls, said yesterday.

Mr Miliband is returning to work today, having taken two weeks' paternity leave after the birth of his second son, Samuel, amid grumbling in Labour ranks that he has not done enough to define what his leadership stands for. There have also been fresh rumours about plots to unseat Gordon Brown before the general election.

But this talk was contemptuously dismissed by Mr Balls yesterday. "The papers are full of all of this sort of twitching of the old corpses of the past. Who cares?" he told the BBC.

He also defended the Labour leader's temporary absence from frontline politics. "He is on paternity leave and I think that's a really good thing. One of the great changes in the last 10, 15 years under the Labour government was things like paternity leave becoming an accepted part of life. But he's coming back and he's going to be fighting hard."

The shadow Home Secretary did not say exactly to whom he was referring when he talked about "old corpses", but it is possible that one of the people he had in mind was his old enemy, Peter Mandelson, who has announced that he is looking for a continuing role in politics as one of Labour's elder statesman, dispensing "wisdom".

Interviewed in Total Politics magazine, Lord Mandelson said he felt hurt at being rejected by Mr Miliband, who publicly advised him to look for "dignity in retirement".

Lord Mandelson said: "I want to continue as a trusted and respected grandee or great uncle. What's happened since the election is that we've all made up now. I felt hurt, I felt denigrated by some of Ed Miliband's remarks. Talking about me in terms of 'dignity in retirement', I felt as if I was being unfairly treated and packed off rather prematurely to an old-folks' home."

He added: "I want to offer counsel to the new generation of Labour leaders and activists. I want to pass on my experience and my wisdom – not to interfere, not to try to rock the boat or drive the car from the backseat.

"Having come back [in 2008] as a safe pair of hands, I want to continue as such. I want to be trusted and respected for what I am and what I say, not regarded as somebody who just can't bear to move on.

"I feel a sense of bereavement for our government. Personally, I feel like a rather displaced individual and I'm not coping perfectly. "

Mr Miliband is expected to set out the priorities for his leadership this weekend, when he makes a speech at Labour's National Policy Forum.

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