Camden Tories breathe a sigh of relief as ‘serious rival’ David Miliband exits politics for US job

Former pupil David Miliband returned to Haverstock School as a visiting teacher following his defeat

Former pupil David Miliband returned to Haverstock School as a visiting teacher following his defeat in the Labour Party leadership race. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Camden Tories have welcomed the departure of political rival David Miliband - saying news that a ‘serious rival’ will be 3,000 miles away brought sighs of relief.

David Miliband turns on the Christmas lights at Primrose Hill Christmas Fair in 2012, where he revea

David Miliband turns on the Christmas lights at Primrose Hill Christmas Fair in 2012, where he revealed that he played kiss chase with Sadie Frost as a schoolboy. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

There was sadness among Labour colleagues in Primrose Hill when they heard that their most famous political neighbour was leaving for America to take up a job as head of the New York City-based International Rescue Committee.

But Camden Conservatives have breathed a sigh of relief, according to one local party stalwart.

Belsize Conservative Councillor Jonny Bucknell said: “I have mixed feelings. On the one hand he is a very pleasant guy. But he would have made a very formidable leader of the Labour party.

“At a Queen’s Jubilee street party in Primrose Hill, I said that if we had to have a Labour MP, it would be nice to have someone local.

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“But as a Tory, I am quite pleased he is off to America because he will be less of a threat. Nobody is quite as formidable an opponent 3,000 miles away.”

MP Mr Miliband, 47, a former foreign secretary who lost the Labour party leadership contest to his brother Ed, is leaving his South Shields seat – and his home off Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill – so as not to be a distraction to his brother.

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His departure means Camden is losing one of its most famous residents.

Not only did Mr Miliband live in Primrose Hill, together with other famous faces such as Harry Enfield, Joan Bakewell and Jamie Oliver, but he helped teach at Haverstock School in Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm – the school he and his brother both attended.

He also supported Holy Trinity and St Silas School in Hartland Road, Camden Town – turning up to its Christmas fair in 2010.

And last year, he discovered a hidden talent for stand-up comedy when he turned on Primrose Hill’s Christmas lights with Cllr Bucknell.

When the switch-on started too early, Cllr Bucknell could not help getting a little heated, shouting: “Turn them off, turn them off, you’ve jumped the gun! You can’t get the crew these days – Nelson had the same problem.”

Mr Miliband prompted roars of laughter when he dryly responded: “They are very uncouth these Tories. They do like shouting at people as if it’s a master-servant relationship.

“I would like to say to my comrades who are stationed by all these trees, my partners in this social venture, in this bigger society... we are going to do a countdown.”

He also revealed that he was sad that fellow Primrose Hill local and fashion designer Sadie Frost had not arrived to turn on the Christmas lights with him, revealing how the pair had played kiss chase as children at Primrose Hill Primary School.

Such encounters are not likely to happen again any time soon as Mr Miliband is leaving Parliament to take up his new job in New York.

Labour councillor Chris Naylor, who represents Camden Town with Primrose Hill, said: “We will miss him a lot. He has been a great figure to have around and he is a politician who thinks deeply.

“My big thing was when he admitted that the Labour party got it wrong on council housing – they didn’t fund council housing in Camden.

“Everybody was very surprised when his brother got the leadership.

“From David Miliband, we might have got a bit more vision, integrity and sincere concern for people on the frontline.

“David has more of a statesmanlike presence whereas Ed still has to grow into the role.”

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