Miliband Cancels India Trip – Times report

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31st July, 2008

This article seems to be presently unavailable at The Times. (It was here earlier this afternnon.) I can’t be sure whether they were jumping the gun, didn’t really have an “exclusive” or whether they are updating the page. But until we’re put right on this, I thought I’d post it here. Always like to be helpful.

David Miliband quits foreign trip to spark new rumours of challenge to Brown

Picture by (Richard Pohle/The Times)

David Miliband leaves the BBC studios in London after being interviewed on Radio 2

David Miliband has sparked fresh speculation that he is about to leave his job as Foreign Secretary to challenge Gordon Brown after suddenly cancelling a four-day foreign trip, and holding what was interpreted as a ‘farewell’ meeting with his staff.

The Foreign Secretary suddenly announced this morning that he was calling off the trip to India, scheduled for the start of September. It had been designed to promote Britain’s trade and investment interests in the country, and was considered important to encourage investment in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The cancellation, for which no reason was given, was unexpected as invitations to meet him had already been sent out to Indian political and business leaders.

In a move sparking further leadership speculation, it emerged that Mr Miliband had earlier this week assembled several close aides in his office and told them how grateful he had been for all of their efforts. The meeting, touted by some involved as a leaving summit in everything but name, led to rumours spreading around the Foreign Office that Mr Miliband was about to resign.

The Foreign Secretary has been the subject of furious speculation about his intentions within the media and Westminster after he published an article in The Guardian detailing his ideas for Labour in the future without mentioning the Prime Minister once.

A source who works closely with staff in the Foreign Office said: “They tell me something’s definitely up with Miliband. Out of the blue, he pulled his closest people in for a meeting and told them how wonderful it had been to work with them. They said it was almost a leaving speech in everything but name.

“He definitely gave the impression that he was going somewhere.”

Days after the meeting – and following the article in The Guardian in which he seemed to set out his stall for the leadership – it emerged that Mr Miliband had cancelled his long-planned trip to India.

The Foreign Office today refused to discuss his position within the department. A source in the department said he still planned to visit India soon. “We can’t comment on the Foreign Secretary’s travel plans,” the spokeswoman said.

In an interview on on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 this afternoon, Mr Miliband defended his newspaper article. “I think the worst thing at the moment would be if we all went mute,” he said. “It’s right that we say that, sure we’ve taken some hits, but actually we’ve got ideas about the future of the country, we do want to engage with people.”

Asked if the PM could “hang on”, he replied: “Yes, of course. Look, this leader of the Labour Party has got huge experience, he has got good values.”

As speculation about Mr Miliband’s actions increased, two backbench MPs today called for him to be sacked.

Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said Mr Miliband was “trying to stir up trouble” and should get on with his job, adding that if he was sacked he would return to being a “nonentity” on the backbenches.

Bob Marshall-Andrews accused Mr Miliband of “pretty contemptible politics” and said his behaviour had been “duplicitous”.




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One Response to “Miliband Cancels India Trip – Times report”

  1. Mili-Band of “Brothers”-”Sack him” say Brownites « Tony Blair Says:

    […] Times: Miliband stokes the fires: Cancelled India trip and “farewell speech” to staff […]

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