As the four-month Labour leadership contest drew to a close, the favourite, David Miliband, appeared before the party faithful in Birmingham for his final rally. Neil Elkes caught up with him.
For weeks now the battle to become leader of the Labour Party has been portrayed as a Cain and Abel feud between the Milibands.
The older brother, former Foreign Secretary David, has been in front, but younger sibling Ed, with the backing of key trade unions, closing the gap.
David was sure of a rapturous welcome in front of his supporters, including former Home Secretaries Alan Johnson and Jacqui Smith, at his final campaign rally at Washwood Heath Technology College – symbolic as a school which saw a £16 million rebuild cancelled by the Government two months ago.
But privately the David Miliband team are more than a little anxious as the campaign draws to a close, fearing that as the also-ran candidates Diane Abbott, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham drop out, their second preference votes will go to Ed.
The wait will be over on Saturday, September 25, when the result is announced at the opening of the Labour conference in Manchester.
It appears that David’s main appeal is fear he apparently causes Conservatives.
Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, hosting the rally in his constituency, said: “He is the man David Cameron fears the most.”
Speaking before the rally, Mr Miliband was confident that if the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition fell apart next week, he could lead Labour to an election victory.
He talked about a vision, about starting community campaigns and encouraging people to believe ‘they can do better than this’.
It was a positive message and when in full flow, using words like ‘morality’ and ‘dignity’ and talking about Labour’s values of ‘power for the many not the few,’ the 45-year-old was more than a little reminiscent of Tony Blair during his rise to power.
In targeting the Labour faithful and those voters who have deserted them since 1997 he talked about developing the party’s community activism and building grassroots campaigns.
It is a lesson he has learned from Birmingham, the city where Labour support held up most as they retained all eight MPs.
Mr Miliband admitted that the last Government could have done more to sell itself, highlighting its success on Northern Ireland, gay rights, children’s centres, growth in higher education and cuts in hospital waiting lists.
Likewise, it could have improved on jobs and manufacturing issues – an area where the West Midlands has been hit hardest.
There was little or no mention of the leadership rivals and certainly no criticism, after all he may need them for his Shadow Cabinet.
Instead the older Miliband raised optimism for Labour in opposition.
He said its task was being made easier as the Coalition Government struggled with its spending review and people saw services being cut.
“They have hit manufacturing, hit schools in Birmingham, hit business, nailed consumer confidence. This is not what people voted for,’’ he said.
“The Government is a pendulum swinging between hug a hoodie and the hang ‘em and flog ‘em. Simon Hughes and Norman Tebbit do not mix.”