Miliband steps down after ‘humiliation’

Britain's Labour Party leader Ed Miliband holds up his hands as he delivers his resignation at a press conference in Westminster, London on Friday.  

Despite hopes that the public had warmed to him during a fractious campaign, Ed Miliband and his Labour Party suffered a devastating rout in Thursday’s British general election, triggering his immediate resignation.

Written off as a political insider lacking charisma just a few months ago, the 45-year-old had won plaudits for his tough campaign style and some observers saw leadership material despite his awkward image. Centre-left Labour was neck-and-neck with the centre-right Conservatives in opinion poll after opinion poll, helping bolster Mr. Miliband against Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron — long seen as the slicker operator.

But results revealed the chasm between himself and Cameron, who won an overall majority. “Britain needs a strong Labour Party. It’s time for someone else to take leadership of this party,” Mr. Miliband told supporters in his resignation speech on Friday. “I am truly sorry I did not succeed, I have done my best for five years,” he said, adding: “I take absolute and total responsibility for the result.”

Mr. Miliband’s gaffe-prone image was summed up in a photograph of him unattractively eating a bacon sandwich — an image much reproduced in Britain’s right-wing press during the campaign. He stumbled following a televised debate and then unveiled a giant slab of stone etched with his key pledges in what was mocked as his “Moses moment.”

A father of two, married to environmental lawyer Justine Thornton, Mr. Miliband put living standards at the heart of his election campaign, insisting that an economic upturn under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has not reached ordinary people.

But he was accused by opponents of leading a party with little economic credibility, and one that was held partly responsible for the pain of austerity inflicted on Britons following the global financial crisis of 2008. By the early hours of Friday, there was growing pressure from Labour supporters for him to stand down. “Ed Miliband has to go after general election humiliation — the only question is when,” the Daily Mirror tabloid, which endorsed him in the campaign, said in an editorial.

Leading contenders

Speculation will immediately turn to possible contenders, including the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, the shadow health minister, Liz Kendall, and the shadow justice minister, Dan Jarvis. Mr. Burnham will start as favourite, but the party will scrutinise each leader very closely.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 12:34:14 AM |

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