Miliband brothers: soon it will be time for peace to break out

Coalition will try to exploit differences for a long time to come.

After a long campaign that has brought the extraordinary spectacle of the brothers David and Ed Miliband cast as ruthless rivals, today may be the last day in which they emphasise their (real) political differences.

The deadline for voting is at 17.00 hours, and both camps are claiming their man is set to win. With tensions running high; Ed Miliband has just sent a campaign email appealing for extra votes and saying, in a clear attack on the rival camp:

This has been a campaign based not on the backing of large donors or of the New Labour establishment, but on the support of thousands of new and long-standing Labour Party members.

Very soon, though, such messages will be a thing of the past. After the votes are counted over the coming days, the results will be revealed on Saturday afternoon in Manchester. After the first real contest since Michael Foot was elected Labour leader in 1980, the new leader will be charged with ushering in a spirit of fraternity towards his brother as well as across his party. He will have to give an acceptance speech, interviews, a conference speech and then turn outwards to the electorate and against the coalition. Parliament returns after the conference season the following week, and the new leader will face David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions.

There is no doubt that divisions between the Miliband brothers will be a key line of attack from the coalition. But if peace breaks out in the Labour party after this weekend -- and that is a big if -- there is one response the new leader will be able to give: the Tories and the Lib Dems have fought bitter leadership contests before, but none of the candidates has been able to say they loved their main rival. Labour MPs and activists will be hoping that after being so dramatically tested in this surreal contest, brotherly love will prevail for the sake of the party and the country.

PS: Here is Alastair Campbell, in today's Yorkshire Evening Post, showing how it is done when it comes to offering support for a candidate without treading all over the contest:

I am really hoping that David Miliband wins the leadership, I hope that there's a new team that does the strategy stuff. I would just love to see a younger generation come into it. Never say never but I feel at the moment that I have got a very different sort of life.


James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.