David Miliband has delivered a withering assessment of his brother Ed’s failed general election campaign saying the Labour Party had appeared to go backwards under his leadership.
The former foreign secretary said the party had suffered a “devastating” reverse in last week’s general election and that voters “didn’t want what was being offered to them” by the party.
His intervention came as stand-in leader Harriet Harman appealed to the party not to tear itself apart in the aftermath of their crushing defeat.
Addressing the party’s MPs gathered at Westminster for the first time since the election, she said: “We have got to look deep in our souls, but we shouldn’t open our veins.”
She told them that she had commissioned a “forensic analysis” of what went wrong and warned there was “frustration” at the amount of “commentating” that had been going on within the party.
Earlier Apprentice star Lord Sugar – who was made a Labour peer by Gordon Brown – announced he was quitting the party blaming its “negative business policies” and anti-enterprise approach.
David Miliband, who now runs the International Rescue Committee aid agency in New York, said that he had no intention of returning to challenge for the leadership following his brother’s resignation.
However he said that he remained passionately committed to the Labour cause and indicated that he felt free to intervene in the debate over the party’s future now the “soap opera” surrounding his relationship with his younger sibling was over.
And he delivered a stark analysis of the failings of the party’s election campaign, saying that it had repeated the mistakes of Mr Brown’s losing campaign in 2010.
“What I think it vital is there is absolutely no delusion about what happened, why it happened, and the scale of the challenge that exists not just in England and Wales but in Scotland as well,” he told the BBC.
“There’s absolutely no point in blaming the electorate. Any suggestion that they didn’t ‘get it’ is wrong. They didn’t want what was being offered.”
“Both in 2010 and 2015, Gordon and then Ed allowed themselves to be portrayed as moving backwards from the principles of aspiration and inclusion that are at the absolute heart of any successful progressive political project.”
He pointly refused to say whether he thought the party had made a mistake when it chose his brother rather than him to lead it following Mr Brown’s resignation in 2010.
“For my own sanity there is no point in trying to press the re-wind button. You don’t get to re-wind the tape,” he said.
At tonight’s meeting in Westminster, Ms Harman told Labour MPs that the party was considering three approaches for staging the contest to succeed Ed Miliband – with a final decision to be taken by the ruling national executive on Wednesday.
The options are short campaign with the result decided on July 31, a longer campaign with the new leader chosen one or two weeks before the party conference in September, or using conference as a final hustings with a ballot after that.
Earlier she moved to fill the gaps in the shadow cabinet caused by the ousting of shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, replacing them with Chris Leslie and Hilary Benn.
Labour veteran Lord Falconer of Thoroton also returns to the frontline as shadow justice secretary to take on Michael Gove over the new Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.
David Miliband said that it was now essential that the party was able to re-connect with voters from all walks of life across the country.
“What I passionately hope for is that friends and colleagues who are in the UK will take up the mantle of dynamic progressive politics that is able to speak to millions of people around the country,” he said.
“Maybe I will be freer to contribute to that debate because there isn’t going to be the soap opera associated with my name and Ed’s name.”
Asked if he had spoken to Ed since his election defeat, David said: “I’m very happy to say we remain in touch. I think that many of the attacks on him were unpleasant and unfair and I think he dealt with them with enormous dignity and courage.
“I’ve always said that I’ll keep our private conversations private, but I’ve also always said that we remain brothers for life and that’s something that has to be kept.”