David Miliband: Labour giant

The party will be poorer without him

If, as seems likely, David Miliband steps down from front-bench politics this afternoon, it will be a tragedy for the Labour party, if an entirely understandable thing to do. He has conceded that he arrived in Manchester "planning a slightly different week" to the one he had to endure, and yet his speech to the conference paying tribute to Ed shows what a giant man as well as politician he is.

His alleged comment to Harriet Harman, too, about clapping Ed over Iraq having voted for the invasion shows, at least, consistency and conviction. It also shows why perhaps he would be right to step down.

But that does not take away from the fact that doing so brings a rather dark side to this leadership contest. It feels a wrong and premature ending to his British political career. There is no doubt that it would have been better if, somehow, we could have had both Milibands on the front bench rather than one.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.