THERE was only one big loser in Wednesday's ludicrously inept attempt by former Labour ministers Geoffrey Hoon and Patricia Hewitt to unseat Gordon Brown as leader of the Party by means of a secret ballot. It was not Mr Brown, nor was it either Hoon or Hewitt who are both has-beens.

It was David Miliband, who took seven hours to steel himself to express his support for the prime minister and then did so in such a way as to underline his vacillation and vacuity. Mr Miliband has form in these matters. On a previous occasion he gave the impression he was making a bid for the leadership but then retreated when he came under criticism. This time, when everyone knew that his reaction to the Hoon/Hewitt initiative would be influential, he chose to hold off longer than any other senior Cabinet minister and then issued this masterpiece of evasion: “I am working closely with the Prime Minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election for a Labour party that he is leading.” Did anyone suppose he would not support Labour's re-election?

Those words will return to haunt him if and when he decides to seek the leadership in the future, as will his unwise championing of Tony Blair for the presidency of the EU Council of Ministers. Now, can Labour please get on with fighting the general election on the issues?

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