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"Serial bottler" David Miliband's Labour leadership hopes in tatters after dithering during failed coup

David Miliband As the the papers conduct a post mortem on Wednesday's failed coup against Gordon Brown, there is general agreement that David Miliband is the biggest long-term loser from the debacle.

His failure either to swiftly back Brown or join the coup has earned him the soubriquet of "serial bottler" and seriously damaged his future leadership ambitions, writes John Kampfner in the Daily Mail:

"Miliband has done himself no favours. He has been a competent foreign secretary, no more. He has shown himself to be out of his depth in a number of policy areas but he has also helped to rebuild some bridges after the debacle of Blair and his Iraq messianic fervour.

"His stock has risen and fallen with each twist of the Brown leadership. With this latest display of timidity, he has damaged his chances of becoming Labour leader, antagonising both friends and enemies of Brown."

The Daily Express's political editor, Macer Hall, goes even further:

"Angry Labour rebels last night declared David Miliband’s leadership ambitions dead after his failure to join the latest botched attempt to oust Gordon Brown. Branded a “serial bottler”, the Foreign Secretary enraged the plotters by yesterday caving in and backing the Prime Minister after apparently indicating his readiness to take over."

Meanwhile, Steve Richards in The Independent also concludes that the Foreign Secretary has been the "biggest loser" over the last 48 hours:

"The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, appears to be the biggest loser so far in the fall-out from the attempted coup. Labour MPs from various conflicting factions are expressing bewilderment, disdain and frustration at his hesitantly equivocal response. Miliband has delivered three statements on his attitude towards Brown, each of them different in tone, all of them ambiguous. Having taken longer than most Cabinet ministers to respond to the original Hewitt/Hoon missile, Miliband could not stop responding. He is like the proverbial bus. Having waited so long for a statement three come along at once."

Jonathan Isaby