The Miliband 'soap opera' ends with departure: David Miliband quits politics to work for charity in US

Decision to move to New York to work for charity will mean by-election in South Shields constituency and disappointment for Blairites who hoped return would boost Labour's election chances

Labour leader Ed Miliband said today that British politics will be "a poorer place" without his brother David, who is stepping down as an MP.

The former foreign secretary announced this morning that he was quitting as MP for South Shields and moving to New York to take up the position of president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee.

His departure comes two and a half years after the bruising Labour leadership battle which pitted the two brothers against each other and was won by a whisker by Ed on the back of trade union votes.

Younger brother Ed admitted today that the experience had been "difficult", but added: "Time has helped to heal that. I will miss him."

In a letter to his constituency party chairman in South Shields, 47-year-old David - who was long regarded as the brightest Labour star of his generation and the party's most likely future prime minister - said it was "very difficult" for him to be leaving politics in the UK.

He said he still "passionately" wanted to see Labour returned to power and praised Ed's leadership for making it "achievable".

The former Foreign Secretary’s move brings down the curtain on what he has called the “daily soap opera” and “psychodrama” starring himself and his younger brother.

Since then, David Miliband has agonised about whether to return to frontline politics.  His brother made clear he would be welcomed back and many Labour figures hoped he would return to the Shadow Cabinet before the 2015 general election.

His decision to join the International Rescue Committee (IRC) will mean a by-election in his South Shields constituency, a safe Labour seat he has represented since 2001 and held with a majority of   11,109 at the last general election. It is likely to be held in May. 

Mr Miliband is married to the American violinist Louise Shackelton and they adopted two children in the US.

David’s departure at the age of 47 will bring  mixed reactions in Labour circles.  Blairites will regret the loss of  one of the party’s “big beasts”. They believe the  former head of Tony Blair’s Downing Street Policy Unit could have helped to reassure voters that Labour could be trusted with power again.

But others will be relieved that Ed Miliband will no longer have to worry about his brother’s role as the election approaches – and the intense media focus that his return would have brought.  Although Ed would have welcomed a comeback, his brother’s decision at least ends the uncertainty of his current position in a political “no man’s land.”

David was favourite to succeed Gordon Brown as Labour leader and did not expect his brother to stand against him. Ed won by a wafer thin majority with the help of trade union votes. Some Labour modernisers regret David’s decision not to resign from the Cabinet in 2009, saying that could have ended Mr Brown’s premiership and seen David installed in Downing Street.

Much of his time in recent months has been spent on his lucrative directorships and speaking roles. His earnings since leaving government total £985,315 – including travel and accommodation for himself and his staff, according to the most recent Commons register of interests -more than six times his salary as an MP.

Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. It works in 40 countries and 22 US cities.

1994 Having worked for the Institute of Public Policy Research, David Miliband becomes Tony Blair’s head of policy and contributes to Labour’s 1997 manifesto. He is nicknamed “brains” by Alastair Campbell.

Timeline: The Miliband years

2001 Elected MP for South Shields with 63 per cent of the vote.

2002 Appointed Schools Standards Minister.

2004 Replaces Ruth Kelly as Cabinet Office Minister.

2005 Becomes full member of the cabinet as Minister of State for Communities and Local Government.

2006 A reshuffle sees Mr Miliband replace Margaret Beckett as Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He calls for all 27 EU nations to cut emissions by 30 per cent before 2020.

2007 Just 24 hours after Gordon Brown succeeds Mr Blair as Prime Minister, Mr Miliband becomes the third-youngest Foreign Secretary in Britain’s history at 41 years old.

2008 Mr Miliband writes in a newspaper of his vision for Labour, in a move widely seen as a leadership challenge to Mr Brown.

2010 He runs for the party leadership against his brother Ed, Andy Burnham, Ed Balls and Diane Abbott. Despite leading the first three rounds, he loses narrowly to Ed and quits frontline politics.

2013 Resigns as South Shields MP.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links