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Milibands in fight for Labour reins

world Updated: May 17, 2010 01:23 IST
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In a reminder of the reported succession deal between ex-premiers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Britain is set to be presented with what promises to be a fascinating contest between a pair of brainy political siblings for the leadership of the Labour party.

David and Ed Miliband — two fiercely intellectual men who held important cabinet positions in the Labour government — have both declared themselves as candidates to succeed Brown as Labour’s leader in opposition.

“David is my best friend in the world — I love him dearly and I think it is absolutely possible and necessary for this party to have a civilised contest,” Miliband told the Fabian Society on Saturday. “I’m in it to win it, but win or lose we will remain the best of friends and I will still love him dearly.”

But he scotched speculation of a deal in the style of Labour rivals Blair and Brown in 1994, when Blair reportedly promised Brown the premiership after seven years. “No deals. Deals are the thing that got us into some of the problems we have had,” said Ed Miliband.

David, at 44 the older by four years, was foreign secretary while Ed handled climate change in the Brown cabinet. Both gave a strong account of themselves, although David went through a baptism by fire by referring to Kashmir during a visit to India after 26/11.

The two men had identical education — both studied at government schools before going on to read PPE (philosophy, politics, economics — de rigueur for entry into politics in Britain) at Oxford University. Then they parted ways: David is seen as a Blairite, whereas Ed worked closely with Brown.

Both men have what it takes to occupy Britain’s highest office, but David has an edge. A Sunday Telegraph/ICM opinion poll showed David leading the field with 32 per cent backing him, followed by stopgap party chief Harriet Harman (11 per cent) and Ed (nine per cent).

David is said to score over Ed with a combination of dynamism, good looks and assertiveness. Nicknamed ‘The Brain’ by Labour strategist Alistair Campbell, many civil servants at the British foreign ministry are said to be in awe of him.

America’s Vogue magazine recently described him as “tall and dashing,” while secretary of state Hillary Clinton swooned: “…he’s so vibrant, vital, attractive, smart. He’s really a good guy.”