David Miliband answers questions over political comeback at Primrose Hill library fundraiser

PUBLISHED: 11:44 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:49 15 May 2013

David Miliband in conversation with Jon Snow at Cecil Sharp House in aid of Primrose Hill Community Library

David Miliband in conversation with Jon Snow at Cecil Sharp House in aid of Primrose Hill Community Library

© Nigel Sutton email

Former foreign secretary David Miliband addressed the question that refuses die – whether he will one day make a political comeback – at his last major public appearance before moving to the US.

Mr Miliband declined to rule out a return during a discussion with Jon Snow before an audience at Cecil Sharp House in Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, last night.

Mr Snow wondered out loud “if the political system can afford your departure” before demanding: “Will you come back?”

The ex-Labour MP responded: “I’m not ruling in and I’m not ruling out.”

The Primrose Hill resident dropped a further hint when he described his imminent departure to New York to run the International Rescue Committee charity as an “episode” and not an emigration.

He was speaking in conversation with the Channel 4 News presenter at a sell-out event to raise funds for the Primrose Hill Community Library in Sharpleshall Street, Primrose Hill.

The evening seemed to leave Mr Snow with the impression that the man beaten to the Labour leadership by his younger brother, Ed Miliband, still harbours political aspirations. The broadcaster and journalist told the Ham&High afterwards: “I don’t think all ambition is dead, shall we put it that way.”

More than 400 people packed into Cecil Sharp House for the event, which began with reminiscence about his Primrose Hill upbringing and school days at Haverstock School in Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm.

The audience included his former maths teacher Mrs Maude Rene, as well as the A Level politics pupils he has taught at Haverstock over the past two years.

Mr Snow described him as a “rare entity in British public life” as he still lives in the house where he was born. “Physically the area was quite the same,” Mr Miliband said. “The houses are pretty much as they were. The sense that there was a balance was still there. For me it was a lovely place to grow up.

“There’s a great familiarity about the place, and rather than breathing contempt, it’s brought a sense of security that’s been really nice.”

Asked if he was a “toff amongst plebs” at Haverstock, he insisted “no on both counts”, before paying tribute to former headteacher Mrs Jenkins.

“She ran the school with a sense that aspiration and youngsters mattered and that was important,” he said.

In a wide-ranging discussion lasting more than 60 minutes, he moved onto his political regrets, including voting for the war in Iraq and his inability to help secure stability in Afghanistan.

He also touched on the Europe debate, insisting that it is “deeply worrying” that leaving the EU is viewed by anyone as a “mainstream position for a serious country”.

Mr Miliband, who leaves for New York this summer, also found time to comment on the influence of the media in politics, saying: “There’s a responsibility on the media as well as politicians for the culture and quality of our public discourse.”

Speaking to the Ham&High beforehand, he insisted that the Primhose Hill community had been “seriously undercharged” for the event.

“I’m not sure [the organisers] have tested the purchasing power of the Primrose Hill community with £12 tickets,” he said. He added: “There are lots of things I’ll miss [about Primrose Hill]. We’ll miss the people, the familiarity, the institutions, the park, the pub, but we’re not going to sever our links with the area, so we look forward to retaining our links.”

He said it would be nice for his brother Ed Miliband to visit, but added: “He may have a few other things on his mind with running the country.”

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