The long-running exchange of mutually abusive texts between us reached fever-pitch yesterday, all as a result of the Labour leadership contest. And, there’s no point in disguising the fact, my best friend is right. He, of hardcore Tory mindset, poignantly cut to the chase by sending through a final sermon, “you’re a member of a party that you can’t even vote for and treats you like a 2nd class hanger on….mental case”. Quite – the Northern Ireland dilemma, support UK Labour but vote for who, exactly? I’m utterly gutted tonight and am fleeting between moments of self-ridicule and not a little embarrassment for feeling this way. But I can no more change how I feel about the political ideology of the Labour Party, or the outcome of its leadership contest, than I can change what woman I was born to or what day of the week it is at any given moment. I can forgive myself for how I feel because I feel this way for the right reasons; there is no malice of forethought attached as a penance. David Miliband was my first preference choice for the Labour leadership, his brother Ed, second. The other 3 candidates had no chance. I have admired the abilities of David Miliband for a long time. He was at the heart of constructing the policies that delivered the Labour Party its thumping election victory in 1997 and he continued in that vein by employing his brilliant mind in new, innovative ways by developing ideas which benefitted and enriched our party and served our people through 3 successful and historic terms in Office. His time as this country’s Foreign Secretary was a period when he blossomed into Labour’s obvious successor. It didn’t surprise me to learn that on his visit to Britain in August, Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, was reported to have actively sought out David Miliband, feeling more at home in his company in order to discuss his country’s profound problems, rather than that of our own Prime Minister, David Cameron. That isn’t to say I haven’t had my moments of doubt about David. Doubts that have had more to do with the manner and style he employs to express his ideas rather than the substance behind them. Inexplicably, during the Hustings, he at times looked disinterested, remaining silent when opportunities arose for him to confront the ideas and views of other contestants. At those moments, when you are instinctively motivated to move in for the kill, David Miliband failed to express the ideological passions that reside within and drive him. In contrast, his brother Ed was vocal and passionate throughout. Ed Miliband is, in a tactical, intelligent sense as unashamed an opportunist as you could reasonably expect to encounter. If there is one attribute that I’ve discovered in him in the last 4 months it is that. He recognised that his brother would fall victim to the accusation of being too closely aligned with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and New Labour – a willing and loyal foot-soldier bound by conditioning and loyalty to remain ever faithful to its cause, regardless of the consequences. Ed Miliband positioned himself as the change candidate, committed to reconnecting the party once more with its core support and renewing the trust between the leader and the party’s grassroots. Secondly, and related to the New Labour issue, he identified a sizeable but frustrated core of support within the party that was not naturally cohering with the overtly left-wing tendencies of Diane Abbott. Ed Miliband duly obliged, looked the gift-horse in the mouth, and won them over. If David Miliband was initially disappointed and a little disconcerted by his brother’s decision to challenge his expected ascendency to Labour leader, he closeted it well. In retrospect, there was a definite Ides of March feel about how Ed went on to despatch his brother to the likely and ignominious fate of chancery on Labour’s back benches. What a tragedy, what an appalling and insufferable waste of outstanding talent. Ed Miliband won this campaign by playing a dangerous game that may come back to bite him and the party he has embarked upon leading. Getting the unions on his side and winning the leadership contest as a result of their votes, provides the Tories with top quality ammunition and charges of “Red Ed” during a time when it is they that should be under the spotlight. The label of “Left-wing Labour” sits perilously alongside a memory that has been plaguing me today – that now infamous Michael Hestletine speech at the Conservative Party Conference in which he won over the faithful with a devastatingly simple military analogy of a marching army, but with a twist, “Left!….Left!….Left! Left! Left! The greatest trick Ed Miliband pulled in this contest was convincing the disillusioned Labour supporters out there that he was not an inherent believer in New Labour. Now that he has assailed to leader, he has to deliver a left-wing agenda that he does not believe in and therefore simply can’t deliver to the unions and those more broadly who won the leadership for him. Indeed, he will probably spend the next few years facing down Tory and media accusations that he is old, left-wing Labour in both style and substance by feeling it necessary to continually prove by words and deeds otherwise. This dangerous cocktail of accusation and counter-measure will ultimately disappoint those who have supported him and cause untold confusion in the electorate at large. It is bound to undermine the chances of the Labour Party at the next election and beyond. My fear is that it will make Ed Miliband, and the Labour Party, unelectable – that and the fact that he is at times unconvincing. As for the other candidates in the race I got their final position by the end of play today spot on by the end of day one. About 4–6 weeks ago Ed Balls gave up the pretence of running for the leadership and instead set down his claim for Shadow Chancellor. He was extremely convincing in how he set about the Tories dogmatic economic agenda, dissecting it with ruthless efficiency; the inexperienced Tories were left reeling in his wake. Andy Burnham is a nice, down to earth labour Party MP. You’d have him in your Shadow cabinet and government as a safe pair of hands. He is not a leader. Diane Abbott led a cynical campaign which targeted her male contestants, their education and perceived privileged upbringing and that did little to encourage the membership to support her. As well as that, you simply cannot predicate an economic agenda based entirely on the eradication, desirable though it may be, of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. It looks unlikely now that she will be offered a job in the Shadow Cabinet, or at least it should look that way. I knew straight away when David Miliband walked into the conference hall this evening that he had lost. He simply is not the sort of man that would smile from ear to ear upon being told he was the new party leader. It would not be in his nature or style to act so crudely or be so insensitive to the feelings of those whom he had defeated. But tonight belongs to Ed Miliband. Before my personal disappointment this night is misunderstood as an attack on our new leader, let me say this. I’m letting off steam. I’m disappointed. I want to trust, support and fight for Ed Miliband. He is a good and honourable man. In these days of MP claim scandals and public cynicism in politics, Ed Miliband is a damn good alternative. I could enjoy a good pint and a conversation with him and feel right at home. I did, after all, have him as my second preference and for good reason. Ultimately, he will be facing the Tories in the Commons and fighting for the Labour Party and that in itself will intuitively win me over. He can expect my full, unwavering and loyal support from Northern Ireland. That is, except for tonight and for a little while thereafter. Tonight, I am a wounded soldier feeling sorrow for a fallen comrade, and it hurts.