Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 10:14 UK

Miliband 'Heseltine moment' fear

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

David Miliband has been overheard telling aides that he toned down his speech to Labour's conference to avoid it being seen as "a Heseltine moment".

The foreign secretary, tipped by some as a future leader, was discussing his speech with staff who told him that it was being given six marks out of 10.

He was heard by a BBC journalist to say: "I couldn't have gone any further. It would have been a Heseltine moment."

Mr Miliband dismissed the story as "hearsay".

He also rejected a suggestion that he is raising money for a leadership campaign.

Mr Miliband, arriving at the conference centre, dismissed suggestions that he had begun raising funds for a leadership campaign.

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

"Of course I have not started raising money for a leadership campaign," he told reporters. The Foreign Secretary insisted that Mr Brown would survive as Prime Minister. "Of course, he is a leader with real deep values and a real sense of where the country needs to go and I think you will see that today," he said.

There has been persistent speculation about Mr Miliband's intentions after he wrote a newspaper article in July discussing Labour's future without mentioning Mr Brown.

During his speech he urged optimism and said the Conservatives were "beatable". He praised Gordon Brown twice for past achievements and spoke of the need for "leadership from the party of change".

He was overheard making his comments later - an apparent reference to one of the occasions Michael Heseltine challenged the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

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

'Pull together'

Mr Miliband has said he is not running a leadership campaign. On Sunday he blamed the media for stirring up dissent and denied the party was "disunited".

Invited to kill off the speculation about his leadership ambitions, he told a meeting hosted by the BBC: "We have been through this several times and I keep on saying the same thing.

"I don't support a leadership election, the party needs to pull together, we need to pull together behind Gordon's leadership, we are determined to do so."

But, after he wrote the article in July, some MPs urged Mr Brown to sack him from the cabinet, saying he had "overstepped the line".

In recent weeks a string of rebel Labour MPs have publicly called for a leadership challenge - one minister has stepped down. It follows disappointing poll results for Labour and by-election losses in Crewe and Nantwich and Glasgow East.




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