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Ed Miliband: His time may yet come (illustration by Michael Daley)

Whatever the other differences between Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson, his likely successor as leader of the Opposition if Labour wins in May, the two men are united in their ruthless quest for power—as David Miliband can testify. Ed says he stood for the leadership in 2010 so his party could “move on” from New Labour. But that’s only half the story: he had long harboured a burning ambition that came before even family.

His own party barely saw it coming. Having followed his older brother from Haverstock school, Hampstead, to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on to America for a brief spell and into Westminster as an adviser, the younger sibling used his considerable personal magnetism to work Labour back-benchers from the moment he became MP for Doncaster North in 2005. After 2007, Ed aimed to block David challenging Gordon Brown for the premiership because, as he put it privately, “You can’t have two Milibands in a row.” Thus he was the only senior Labour figure (not even Ed Balls did this) publicly to defend Brown at his most vulnerable point—after the Glasgow East by-election defeat to the SNP in July 2008—and in the same year is said to have pleaded with David not to challenge Brown after the resignation of James Purnell, allegedly promising him a clear run at the leadership after the general election.

In the event, and according to David without proper warning, Ed chose to sacrifice brotherly ties by committing political fratricide. During the campaign, he mercilessly exploited David’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, on which Ed, not then an MP, had not been forced to vote. After the first leadership hustings, David expressed astonishment and anger to a friend at the way Ed had “made it all about Iraq”. At the same event, Ed had authorised his supporters to hold “Ed speaks human” posters, seen as a dig at his brother’s more aloof manner.

If David no longer underestimated Ed, the media, as well as the Tories, still did. But as leader, Miliband impressed with a steeliness other leadership candidates would probably not have shown, primarily on Rupert Murdoch in the wake of the 2011 phone-hacking scandal. Much to his credit, Ed committed New Labour heresy by refusing to court a media empire that he has always recognised ultimately worked against his party’s interests. He surprised the Daily Mail, too, with a public attack on the paper in 2013 for calling his Marxist father Ralph “the man who hated Britain”. He consistently displayed calm under daily fire from a largely hostile press. And internally he resisted more conservative voices, principally that of Ed Balls, who called for a tougher line on immigration, a friendlier approach to the City, and a referendum on EU membership.

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