Despite predicting in the New Statesman in December 2008 that Ed Miliband would succeed Gordon Brown, I am still stunned by what we have just seen in the conference hall in Manchester today.
There is no point in pretending Ed’s defeat of David isn’t one of the most dramatic stories in modern British political history. This is a tale of ruthless and focused determination, based on what Ed regarded as an importantly different set of policies. The result is that the Labour Party has today moved clearly on from Tony Blair.
Yet it was so close: David was ahead in the first three rounds and it was only at the last that Ed pipped his elder brother. David was the first on his feet. He embraced his brother warmly. He listened intently. And he kept his smile on throughout. But there is no hiding the fact that what has happened here today is a tragedy for him, one of the brightest and best in the Labour movement.
Ed will desperately be hoping he can unite his party and his family. Time will tell. In the meantime, this party prepares to walk out of the shadow of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Tories will claim they are happy with the result. Yet Ed is one of the most charismatic and alluring politicians of the age. The fight for power at the next election has begun.
One word of warning, though: there will be endless — there already are — attacks from Tories saying Labour is controlled by the unions. Much of it will be nonsense. However, Labour would do well now to consider splitting with the unions which — as with the C of E and the state — would be in both parties’ interests.