John McTernan had a very interesting column in the Scotsman yesterday. Essentially a two cheers for Ed, it also speculates on the variance in performance of the Shadow Cabinet.
I think this a fair assessment and his response to my question that “the shadow cabinet will always be less than the sum of its parts until they are prosecuting a consistent argument” rings totally true.
My assessment is that there are a couple of reasons this isn’t happening consistently.
Firstly, Ed is trying to move away from the control freakery of the recent past. This is the right thing to do overall, but does make consistency more difficult -especially in the middle of a policy review.
Secondly, as soon as a Shadow Cabinet member does start to shine – and be recognised for doing so, there are instant whispers that they are on manoeuvres against Ed. This is true of both Ed’s detractors (see Dan Hodges on Ed Balls) and his cheerleaders (see the comments on this article where Mark Ferguson rightly praises Jim Murphy).
My instinct is that the Shadow Cabinet is probably the body in the Labour Party most over the knife-edge leadership contest. The rest of us need to follow on and catch up. If we allow ourselves to fear talented ambitious people, we won’t get the best from them. If we constrain them out of a misplaced notion that loyalty is quiet subservience, that serves neither our Party nor our leader particularly well.
Frankly the best way for the Shadow Cabinet to prove they aren’t on manoeuvres is to get on with doing the best they can for Ed and dismiss the speculation from their minds. The longer they go on doing so consistently, the weaker the rumours become.
(By the by, I do think some people are starting to be on manoeuvres in the Tory Cabinet, especially Liam Fox (a bit too obvious a portion of red meat to the Tory right to ostentatiously miss Obama to celebrate Regan) But I’m ok with stirring dissent among the Tories, and speculation from opponents is quite different from internal speculation).