London: David Miliband, former British foreign secretary, on Wednesday became the first senior Labour figure to throw his hat into the ring for the vacant Labour leadership after Gordon Brown stepped down.
Setting out his stall to replace Brown, who stepped down owning responsibility for the poll debacle in the recent general election, 44-year-old Miliband said that the party had to be ready to return to power.
Announcing his candidacy, Miliband said yesterday: "The decision of the Liberal Democrats to join a Conservative Government is a momentous one.”
“It creates an enormous responsibility for the Labour Party, revitalised in the right way, to represent all shades of progressive opinion and present itself as an alternative government that is the task in front of us."
"We must renew but we must be ready for government. We live in a new political world, and the responsibility of office may return sooner than people might think.”
“I am standing because I believe I can lead Labour to rebuild itself as the great reforming champion of social and economic change in this country."
Miliband was a close ally of Tony Blair, former prime minister from the first days of New Labour, working for him in opposition from 1994 and heading the No 10 policy unit during his first term in power.
Even before he became an MP, he was a key figure in reshaping the party's agenda, nicknamed "Brains" by Alastair Campbell, former communications director of Tony Blair, for his powerful intellect and mastery of policy detail – and compared to Wayne Rooney by Blair for his political talent.
Parachuted into the safe seat of South Shields shortly before the 2001 election, Miliband was minister within a year and joined the Cabinet in 2005, rising to become Environment secretary, where he put the issue of climate change firmly on the agenda for the first time.
He was promoted again after Brown took over as Prime Minister in July 2007, becoming the youngest Foreign Secretary since David Owen in 1977.
Miliband has already won the backing of key figures including Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, to become party leader and is rated the odds-on favourite by bookmakers.
His opponents in the contest are likely to include the former Schools Secretary Ed Balls, from the Brownite Left of the party and his own brother, Ed Miliband.
First Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 09:11