The Labour Conference Diary: David Miliband anxious to sing from the same hymn sheet


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Indy Politics

As the camera scans the audience during Ed Miliband's big speech this afternoon, one face it will not alight on is David Miliband's. Aware of the damage it could cause if he were to be caught with one facial muscle out of place, the leader's elder brother high-tailed it out of Manchester yesterday.

Before he left, he gave a talk on youth unemployment and made a couple of comments which confirmed that he still stands firmly in the Blairite tradition. He pointed out that Labour has "a mountain to climb", with only 10 MPs in the South – a gentle warning not to ignore Southern middle-class voters Tony Blair strove so hard to keep on side. On the big issue of public spending, he remarked: "Fiscal responsibility is not a choice: fiscal responsibility is a requirement."

Generally, though, the older Miliband has kept himself on a tight rein, not wanting to be seen doing anything that might damage Labour's chance of victory. As he put it: "I'm not just in tune but singing assiduously from the hymn sheet that has been given by Liam [Byrne – the party's official youth unemployment spokesman] and Ed."

But he is not quitting politics. He has confirmed that he plans to stay in Parliament after the next election, when his brother will either be Prime Minister, or a defeated ex-leader. Either outcome will open a new phase in the story of the Brothers Miliband.

So there is such a thing as bad publicity...

While Tory spin doctors were delighted with their poster of the two Eds as clueless schoolboys over the line, 'Labour Isn't Learning', their former deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, was not. "It is not clear how much the party has paid M&C Saatchi to come up with this daft poster," he wrote on Conservative Home. If he was still paying, he would have asked "what it thought it was doing with my money".

Exes scandal MPs hoping for comeback

The expenses scandal finished many political careers for good, but that are others hoping it was but an interruption. The former Labour MP Dawn Butler, who denied putting in a claim for a "whirlpool bath", is hoping to have a go at unseating the Liberal Democrat, Sarah Teather, in Brent Central. While former MPs Shahid Malik, who had to repay more than £1,300, and Parmjit Dhanda, who was found to have overclaimed £2,000, are also planning comebacks.

Insults to Smith are the last Straw...

Jack Straw shifted 45-50 copies of Last Man Standing in Manchester yesterday. The book's most controversial claim is that the late John Smith was a drunk who would not have made an effective PM. Tony Blair wrote Smith was a "stupendous toper" but could hold his drink. Smith had hurled a document at Straw. A friend said: "You didn't need to be drunk to want to throw something at him."