UK Politics

Thoughts on Ed Miliband's Reshuffle

7 Oct 2011 at 20:14

The big test of any reshuffle – either in government or opposition- is this: does it make the top team stronger or not? On balance, I would say that this reshuffle does indeed make Ed Miliband’s team stronger, especially from the point of view of getting on the media. That may seem a false priority, but if a politician can’t get on the media in opposition, they’re not much cop. It is always a risk promoting new MPs very quickly, partly because it can damage them for good. Cameron did Theresa Villers and David Mundell few favours by bringing them into his shadow cabinet only six months after they had been elected. They needed to find their feet. In Miliband’s case, his new entrants have had sixteen months to do that, and many of them have performed impressively. Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna could well be the two that fight Yvette Cooper for the Labour leadership in 2015, should they lose.

The top three – Balls, Cooper and Alexander – all remain in post, which is no surprise. I am slightly surprised that Maria Eagle retains her place and Meg Hilllier doesn’t. Neither have made a huge impression, but surely Eagle, at Transport, has the easier brief to make a mark in. Many of my Labour friends are surprised that Sadiq Khan hasn’t been moved or sacked altogether. To me, that would have been unfair. His problem is that against Ken Clarke he looks unsubstantial. I must admit if I had been Ed Miliband, I’d have put Harriet Harman up against the old bruiser.

Andy Burnham must count himself lucky to still be in the shadow cabinet having failed to land a blow on Michael Gove and done little to create a new education policy. Is Stephen Twigg up to the job? Well, he has experience as a Schools Minister to fall back on, but will he try to fight past battles rather than form a new education policy? Burnham, meanwhile retreats to his comfort zone, but if he returns to his previous form, he will be a formidable opponent for Andrew Lansley.

Caroline Flint, at Energy & Climate Change is another one who needs to up her game. She is certainly capable of doing so and Chris Huhne now has a much feister opponent. Eric Pickles will lament her passing and regret he now has Hilary Benn as his shadow – one of the most transparently nice people in British politics today.

The promotion of Chucka Umunna and Rachel Reeves are the two most notable appointments in this reshuffle. I know and like them both and admire them as politicians. Both are nice people, both are hugely talented and both are destined for the top. Reeves knows her economic onions and will be more than a match for Danny Alexander. She has a gravelly voice that always reminds me of Pat Butcher – and I mean that in a nice way! She also has a sense of humour and a great strength of purpose. I think she will be the success story of this reshuffle. Chuka is a great front man and a calm, reassuring voice on the media. I do think he has had a tendency to believe his own publicity in the past and needs to develop himself as a policy innovator as well as a policy presenter. He will be a delightful contrast to Vince Cable, especially if he allows his impish sense of humour to find its voice. He can be very very serious, almost as if he’s frightened of releasing his ‘inner Chuka’ on an unsuspecting world.

One final word on Tom Watson. When I spoke to him at the Labour conference he was adamant he wouldn’t take on a shadow cabinet role. I have no idea if one was offered to him, but Ed Miliband has pulled off a master stroke by persuading him to take on the role of deputy chairman of the Labour Party. He can use it to, well, frankly do what he likes and take the Labour message to the media.

So all in all, a successful reshuffle for Ed Miliband. It remains to be seen how long it will take David Cameron to follow suit and reshuffle his own Cabinet team. The general consensus is that he will wait till next Easter.

The new Shadow Cabinet is:

Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party
Ed Miliband MP

Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Party Chair and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Harriet Harman MP

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls MP

Shadow Foreign Secretary
Douglas Alexander MP

Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
Yvette Cooper MP

Shadow Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Sadiq Khan MP

Shadow Chief Whip
Rosie Winterton MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Stephen Twigg MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Chuka Umunna MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Jim Murphy MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Hilary Benn MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Angela Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Caroline Flint MP

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Rachel Reeves MP

Shadow Minister for London and the Olympics
Tessa Jowell MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Maria Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Policy Review Co-ordinator
Liam Byrne MP

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Ivan Lewis MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mary Creagh MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Jon Trickett MP

Labour Party Deputy Chair and Campaign Coordinator
Tom Watson MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Vernon Coaker MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Margaret Curran MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Chair of the National Policy Forum
Peter Hain MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Lords Chief Whip
Lord Bassam of Brighton

Also attending Shadow Cabinet:

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People
Liz Kendall MP

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
Michael Dugher MP

Shadow Attorney General
Emily Thornberry MP

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
Lord Stewart Wood

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