Mrs Marion Miliband, mother of the leader of the opposition as well as the other one, is reported to have fled to the USA rather than face the distress occasioned by her sons squabbling for the Labour Party’s crown.  The question is when, if ever, will it be safe for her return. Or else whether, on current form, the elder boy might well join her there. Sadly for the rest of us, much as mass emigration might be the most appealing response to the events of the last few days, we don’t have the luxury of decamping to the other side of the Atlantic.

Junior Miliband didn’t quite say this in his speech yesterday – it was, perhaps, the one transformational cliche that he missed out upon – but he and his party, standing as they do at the motorway intersection of destiny and confronted by the coned-off lanes of deliverance, face a choice. It is a choice that will, quite possibly, define the future of the Labour Party and determine the outcome of the next general election. It is a choice as daunting as it is sensitive, as epic as it is profound, as taxing as it is necessary and it is this. Does Junior smother his brother with love, or does he crush him like a trod-upon Malteser in an act of fratricidal ruthlessness not seen since Cain slew Abel or David Cameron declined to give John Redwood a job in his shadow cabinet.

Being, it seems, one of those politicians more prone to talking about tough decisions than taking them, Junior has set out upon an instant strategy of trying to do both. His first thought, just after being declared the winner, was to proclaim his undying love for his elder brother in a manner that shot several stations beyond kitsch and only just stopped short of pornographic.  Then there were the reports that big bro could have the choice of any job in the shadow cabinet he wanted, even if that meant denying Ed Balls the shadow chancellorship and risking having the vicious bugger coming after you with a knife. It was all rather pathetic really, as if Ed had invited Dave to go round his house and pick out anything that took his fancy from his CD collection.  What else could David have?  The Daily Mail has recently noticed that Junior has neglected to register himself as the father of his child.

The problem with this as a strategy is that it radiated Junior’s own sense of guilt, thus signalling to his party that he thinks that the better man lost. This is at least a unifying emotion since most of party thinks that as well. David M exacerbated this untimely  feeling by making a speech to the conference on Monday that was as elegant as it was poignant as it was raptuously received.  It relegated the man who calls himself the leader of the Labour Party to the role of a wistful spectator, sitting on the touchline, and making notes.

Come his own speech to the conference yesterday afternoon, Junior had decided to change tack.  Now was the time to repudiate the work of the previous Labour government in which, as a member of the Cabinet, he had held a fairly insignificant position. And more precisely to trash his brother’s reputation by condemning the invasion of Iraq of which the older brother, as foreign secretary, had been rather fond.  Rather like the career of Ramsay McDonald, the war is still something that sharply divides Labour and the wounds will probably never heal. To which the Davidites would say that it’s all Ed’s fault. He didn’t have to stand.

The speech had some perjorative effect since, no sooner had Junior finished delivering it that his brother skedaddled back to London, never to return. Leaving the way clear for young Ed to try to rescue his leadership from the fraternal doldrums in which it had got stuck for the first few days and claim Labour for what he calls the “new generation”.  Once we had established that this was indeed what he was talking about – as a former energy secretary could it be that Junior was basing his entire appeal on new generators –  it became necessary to decipher what this curious phrase might mean. For those of us still puzzling over the big society, this is a lot to ask.

One former Cabinet minister has been heard wondering out loud whether he qualifies as a member of the new generation. Age it seems has got nothing to do with it, prompting the Times to remark cruelly this morning that when your new generation is not even generational then something is badly amiss. And where does this leave Junior’s most famous supporter, Lord Kinnock, who is both positively ancient and from a generation when Labour lost elections as easily as most of us lose our car keys. It may be necessary for him to regenerate, like Dr Who.

It may be to do with attitude.  The Guardian thinks Junior wants there to be a “new generation of radical optimists”, which is a handy distinction should any fresh-faced  reactionary pessimists try to gatecrash the party.