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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis