A Reshuffle For Fighters And Believers

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...
Ed Miliband MP

Ok, as I’ve already written about the most important reshuffle of the day, I thought I’d write a brief comment on Ed Miliband’s reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet*.

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter or the blogosphere today you’ll have seen there was huge amounts of speculation, debate and guesswork over who should and would be getting which job. A lot of it was wrong, some of it was obvious, all of it was pointless.

The reshuffle would’ve happened regardless of all the opinions being voiced and I think it would’ve been nicer to see some discussion on the pending economic catastrophe or the details of some of the bills that the Tories are pushing through Parliament at the moment. But such is life. I can’t always get things my way, more’s the pity!

So, what did Ed do?

Well, unsurprisingly, the big three stayed the same with Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, and Douglas Alexander getting more time to build on the work they’ve begun.

At the other end of the surprise spectrum (a spectrum I just invented and which has absolutely no measurement scale) is Chuka Umunna moving to shadow Vince Cable at Business. I guess this is indicative of Ed Miliband’s wish to move the Parliamentary Labour Party to the left with regards to banks and ‘predator’ businesses.

It was a bit of a shock for most people to see John Denham moving to become Ed’s PPS, but given the later announcement that Denham is seeking to step down as an MP at the next election, it makes sense.

Ed’s former PPS, Michael Dugher, is now given Peter Mandelson’s old title (well one of them at least!) of Minister with Portfolio at the Cabinet Office. I guess Miliband is keeping Dugher as an extra pair of eyes and ears and maybe a bit of an enforcer?

Given his position at the end of the Labour government, it was no surprise to see that all the speculation about Andy Burnham’s return to the Health brief proved to be correct. His knowledge of the policy and department means Labour will be putting up a much tougher fight against Lansley’s manouvres with the NHS.

Another former Minister returning to an old brief is Stephen Twigg, taking over from Burnham at Education. His knowledge of the brief and his skill at defeating big-beast Tories will help him take the battle to Michael Gove.

Hilary Benn’s experience at Defra in the last government will help him marshal the rural communities’ discomfort with the work of Eric Pickles over at the DCLG brief. Benn is an old-school political battler with enough guile to build a strong opposition, especially over the Planning changes.

Replacing Benn as shadow Leader of the House is Angela Eagle. Eagle had never really made an impact as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so it was unsurprising to see her moved out of that post.

She’s been replaced by one of the 2010 intake, Rachel Reeves. Reeves is an economist and former Bank of England employee, so adds to the already strong shadow Treasury team.

Harriet Harman has kept her role shadowing the Deputy PM and has been given the Culture, Media, and Sport brief after Ivan Lewis was moved over to International Development. Harman will now take on the phone hacking, review of communications law, and the handling of the Leveson Inquiry. On top of shadowing Clegg, that’s a big brief but she’s a hardened campaigner and should suit the role.

Emily Thornberry moves to Shadow Attorney General and Liz Kendall will be Shadow Minister for Care and Older People (a brief that will grow in importance), means that there are 13 women attending cabinet, in contrast to the Tories and LibDems. It’ll be interesting to see what the coalition parties do next to deal with their ‘woman problem’.

 Overall, I think Ed’s first reshuffle since the elections were scrapped is a good one. Moving people like Andy Burnham and Twigg into briefs where they have experience as well as moving fighters like Harman and Benn into key roles, makes it look like Ed wants to move the Party into a place to take on the Coalition and put up more of a fight.

For too long, the Opposition has not opposed effectively. It looks like that’s about to change.

*If you want the full list, you can find it here.

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