Ed Miliband and David Miliband AP 3.4.2010
David Miliband, right and Ed Miliband. Photo by AP
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Former energy chief prevails over foreign secretary in cliffhanger

Britain's opposition Labour Party chose former energy secretary Ed Miliband as its new leader yesterday after a cliffhanger vote.

Miliband, 40, defeated his older brother David, a former foreign secretary, by a wafer-thin margin to take over the helm of the center-left party.

He succeeds former prime minister Gordon Brown, who resigned after the party lost the May election, ending 13 years in power.

David Miliband was favored by centrists in the party, whereas Ed skewed slightly further to the left and won the backing of major trade unions who help finance the party. The fourth round of the vote count determined the winner, by a margin of a little over one percent, giving the younger Miliband the prize that had seemed within the grasp of his older brother for much of the campaign.

"David, I love you so much as a brother and I have such extraordinary respect for the campaign that you ran - the strength and eloquence that you showed," Miliband said in a message to his brother.

"I have to unify this party and I will," the winner told party activists gathered for their annual conference in Manchester. "Today the work of the new generation begins."

The new leader's focus will be on fighting deep public spending cuts planned by the ruling coalition which Labour says threaten public services and will hit the poor hardest.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition formed after the May election blames Labour incompetence for Britain's record peacetime budget deficit and says it must take urgent action to eradicate it or risk a loss of investor confidence in Britain.

Mother can't bear to watch

The Milibands' mother Marion, an activists and human rights campaigner who is a leading member of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians group, was not present at the voting, saying earlier that she could not bare watching one of her sons being disappointed - no matter which one it ended up being.