Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 12:27 UK

Miliband rejects speech 'hearsay'

David Miliband: 'I did the best possible speech I could'

David Miliband has dismissed a BBC story that he was overheard saying he wanted to avoid a "Heseltine moment" in his conference speech as "hearsay".

The foreign secretary, who has been at the centre of leadership rumours, said the BBC "should know better".

He paid tribute to Mr Brown in his speech but aides were heard telling him it was being given "six out of ten".

A BBC journalist heard him reply: "I couldn't have gone any further. It would have been a Heseltine moment."

The private comment, overheard in a lift, was an apparent reference to the Conservative former deputy PM Michael Heseltine, who challenged the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who was eventually succeeded by John Major.

'Good speech'

The aide replied: "No, you are right. You went as far as you could. That was what the party needed to hear."

Asked about the comments on Tuesday, Mr Miliband dismissed suggestions that he had toned down the speech.

I do not accept any of the allegations that are being put around and this hearsay that the BBC is repeating with absolutely no basis
David Miliband

He told journalists: "I have absolutely no intention of playing your game. My job yesterday was to do a good speech as foreign secretary and I did as best I could and then the people in the country as well as you can make your judgement about whether you liked it or not ... I can tell you I did the best possible speech I could as foreign secretary."

He also dismissed a report in the Guardian suggesting fundraising had begun for his leadership campaign: "Of course I have not started raising money for a leadership campaign. That is a ridiculous suggestion. I am not running a leadership campaign."

He said Mr Brown was "a good man" with ""a real determination to improve the country".

'Should know better'

He added: "He has real, deep values and a real sense of where this country should go, and I think that you'll see that today."

Asked if he regretted the Heseltine comment, he replied: "I do not accept any of the allegations that are being put around and this hearsay that the BBC is repeating with absolutely no basis. It is something that they should know better than.''

There has been much speculation about whether Mr Miliband will launch a leadership challenge - fuelled by an article he wrote in July in which he discussed Labour's future without mentioning Mr Brown. That prompted calls from some MPs for him to be sacked from the cabinet.

But Mr Miliband has said he is not running a leadership campaign. On Sunday he blamed the media for stirring up dissent and said the party was "determined" to pull together behind Mr Brown's leadership.

During his speech he praised Gordon Brown twice for past achievements and spoke of the need for "leadership from the party of change".

In recent weeks a string of rebel Labour MPs have publicly called for a leadership challenge - one minister has stepped down - but no candidate has been forthcoming.

It follows disappointing poll results for Labour and by-election losses in Crewe and Nantwich and Glasgow East.

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