FORMER Labour leadership contender David Miliband has dismissed claims he is plotting against his brother Ed as a "soap opera" as he appealed for "unity" in the party.
Failed leadership candidate Mr Miliband stepped into a furious row involving some of Labour's biggest names after revelations in an unauthorised biography claimed he had said he was "waiting for his brother to fail" and still coveted the party leadership.
The book Ed: The Milibands And The Making Of A Labour Leader is even claimed to have sparked a separate rift between the brothers' wives, Justine Thornton and Louise Shackelton. The book says David's wife Louise has been "nasty" to Justine and has "cut Ed dead".
Reported spats between the brothers, including a claim that the two men are barely on speaking terms, came as Ed was today due to try to relaunch his leadership with a keynote speech in London acknowledging that some voters see the party as having encouraged a "take-what-you-can approach" among benefit scroungers and millionaire bankers.
The book by Labour-supporting journalists Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre also asserts that the younger brother blames David's team for spreading his nicknames "Red Ed" and "Forrest Gump".
Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague seized on the reported rows by suggesting Ed was performing worse than he had as Tory leader between 1997 and 2010, saying: "He seems to be doing worse in terms of making progress in local elections and so on."
But some of the party's most senior figures rushed to deny any rift between the two brothers, after former Labour home secretary David Blunkett called on Ed Miliband to do more to give the party "momentum and a sense of direction".
Former lord chancellor Lord Falconer said that reports of feuds at the top of the Labour Party were "highly reminiscent" of the Blair/Brown era and were "damaging" to the party.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "My advice to everyone involved in this week's briefing and counter-briefing is just shut up and get on with your job."
Former foreign secretary David denied there was bad blood between the pair in a statement, issued yesterday.
He said: "I have moved on from the leadership election and so should everyone else. I called for unity last October and I repeat that now. The rest is soap opera of which I want no part and the public have no interest."
The statement was issued after the book claimed David can barely bring himself to speak to his brother now, and the two men communicate mainly through officials, as well as being scathing about Ed's performance in private, saying he is "heading in the wrong direction".
The authors also say that Labour leader Mr Miliband reportedly "dislikes" shadow chancellor Ed Balls and has been overheard "slagging him off in colourful language" in the past.
A source close to the Labour leader dismissed the claims made in the book as "tittle tattle" and said the two brothers were on speaking terms.
In today's speech, Labour leader Mr Miliband will say: "For too many people at the last election, we were seen as the party that represented these two types of people. Those at the top and the bottom who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duty to each other. From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work – but didn't.".