POLITICS

Blairites Mourn 'Massive Loss' And Hold Out Hope That David Miliband Will Return

27/03/2013 10:05 GMT | Updated 27/03/2013 14:03 GMT

The Blairite wing of the Labour Party is in mourning today after David Miliband, the man they hoped and assumed would succeed Gordon Brown as leader and prime minister, announced he was quitting British political life to move to New York.

The former foreign secretary's decision looks likely to have brought his political career to an end, but many of his allies do not appear to want to let go.

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Tony Blair expressed the hope his protege would one day make a return to Westminster.

"I congratulate David on his appointment to a major international position. It shows the huge regard in which David is held worldwide. I’m sure he will do a great job," he said.

"He is obviously a massive loss to UK politics. He was the head of my policy unit and then a truly distinguished minister in the government and remains one of the most capable progressive thinkers and leaders globally. I hope and believe this is time out not time over."

Miliband became Blair's head of policy at the age of 29. After the Labour landslide in 1997 he led the Downing Street policy unit from 1997 to 2001 before being elected to parliament for South Shields.

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He served as education secretary and foreign secretary and is widely seen to have bottled his chance of toppling Brown in both 2009 and 2010. He then lost the Labour leadership to his brother after the party's election defeat by the narrowest of margins.

His supporters in the Commons had for sometime hoped he would be able sieze the leadership from his younger brother should Ed fail to set the party back on the path to power. However the government's troubles and Ed's recent run of good form put and end to that dream.

Lord Mandelson, who worked alongside Miliband in opposition and in government told the BBC he thought he still "has a future in politics".

"I think I know a little bit about comebacks in politics and, to coin a phrase, if I can come back [then] David Miliband can come back - and I think he will," he said.

Former culture secretary Tessa Jowell said: "I hope, we all hope, that once again in the future David Miliband will make a contribution to public life."

And Jack Straw, who served as home secretary and foreign secretary under Blair said Miliband would be "welcomed back into the Labour movement"

SEE ALSO: David Miliband To Take Job At 'Top Charity' In New York

The current shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, who served as Miliband's campaign manager in his failed bid to beat his brother Ed to the Labour leadership said: "David Miliband and I first became friends as students, before either of us had met Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, and long before anyone talked about New Labour," he said on Twitter.

"Twenty five years on, he remains one of my closest friends in politics and in life. Our time together as parliamentary and then cabinet colleagues proves to me that he can feel real pride about his immense contribution to our party and to our country."

In his leadership victory speech Ed Miliband declared the "era of New Labour has passed" and claimed a new generation had taken over the party. And as the Blairites mourn their loss, not everyone within Labour is sad to see Miliband leave.

One senior figure on the left of the party told HuffPost UK: "It's important for the left to avoid triumphalism, but it obviously marks the date when New Labour finally accepted that the crisis requires us to turn the page."

"Now there can be no excuse for timidity [from Ed Miliband] because the Blairites are decisively weakened."