Tag Archive: shadow cabinet
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The 2010 election was a tale of two campaigns. On the one hand there were member-led innovations like Mob Monday and #Labourdoorstep which got activists targeting their support and pooling their resources.
Sadly, the campaign at the top seemed unable to capture this spirit and equally unable to really give the activists the space they deserved to lead the campaigns. The one opportunity I remember where this was attempted was the dreadful, disastrous “Fire up the Quattro” poster. When one considers how many people that went through for approval, it is astonishing that not one of them had the gumption to wonder about the public attitude to this pop culture figure. While one poster is not all that important in the grand scheme of things, this was emblematic of how distanced from the public and the lived experience of ordinary people.
To be a properly campaigning Party, we need to be a better disciplined Party. The astonishing situation we find ourselves in today is in many ways a mirror inversion of the situation of the 1980s. Party members – as a whole – are disciplined and focused on defeating the Tory-led government at every level. The staff and PLP are undisciplined, briefing anonymously, undermining the leader and therefore the members and defeating Labour in the public arena with scant attention to the feelings and needs of those they are supposed to serve.
I have already discussed issues around the staff. I believe it is also inherent that we change the way the PLP is organised and run. I believe that the events of the last few months have shown that it is essential that the Leader appoint his own shadow cabinet. As far as I can see it is the only way to restore some discipline into the PLP. While I supported Ed for leader, if any other candidate had won, and Ed supporter were behaving in the way some have done over the last 6 months I would be saying exactly the same. My loyalty is to the people of Britain and to offering them an electable Labour government.
Again I think that MPs need to have a contract with their CLP outlining what is expected of them as representatives.
In the 2010 Manifesto, we said:
“We will ban MPs from working for generic lobbying companies and require those
who want to take up paid outside appointments to seek approval from an independent
body to avoid jobs that conflict with their responsibilities to the public.”
I believe it is essential that we retain this rule while out of office and implement the lobbyist register as soon as we are returned to Government. We can never again be the Party where behaviour like that of Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon is allowed to take place.
Equally we must be a united force against the coalition. Any MP or Peer working for this Government in a formal capacity, as John Hutton and Frank Field have done, should have the whip removed from them. There should be no question of Alan Milburn getting a peerage.
The selection process should be better staggered over the life of a Parliament. I think the Island seats are a great idea, and selecting early in this way will have a positive effect on our chances of winning these seats. I realise that the boundary review is going to make other early selections difficult, but there should be a timetable rolled out for seats after that. A constant drumbeat of selections will help Labour to campaign long term.
We need to encourage MPs who want to stand down to announce that they are doing so as soon as possible. At present this is difficult as MPs fear they will lose power and status. I propose that MPs who announce early that they are going to step down should form an emeritus committee to consult on manifesto issues and processes, essentially formalising their role as Party grandees. I believe that this committee should have access to the manifesto process, but that retiring MPs should not be part of the Clause 5 process, as there is too strong a chance of a potential conflict of interest.
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).
[I am writing the depts and not putting shadow before each not out of arrogance but because it just makes this much more readable]
Overall I’m pretty pleased. There are people I would have liked to have seen in that aren’t (Eric Joyce wrote one of the best application letters for the role of Defence Secretary, Tom Watson would have been great against Cable at Business and while I think Meg Hillier is great, I would have loved to see Emily Thornberry at DECC). I’m not that keen on Caroline Flint at CLG, but I’ll give her a chance – she may come over well against Pickles and face it couldn’t do a worse job than he is.
I am delighted with Harman at DFID, Cooper at FO, Khan at Justice and Healey at Health. Burnham should be very interesting in Education and will have no problem demolishing the paper tiger that is Gove. John Denham is another interesting and likeable figure who will be able to skewer Cables vacillations pretty well too.
I have said before that I wanted to see Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor as I have been so impressed with his performance in this area during the leadership debates. However I can see both the internal and external political advantages of putting Johnson in the role. He’s a big hitter who is popular with the public and will therefore be able to take forward our economic message in a way that will be listened to. He will unite the party behind Ed’s leadership, while not running an internal campaign for leader himself (I don’t think Balls would have done this either, but he would have got more crappy media speculation about him trying to). He will also be best placed to give the lie to Osborne’s “all in this together” narrative with his ordinary bloke persona. Already the internet and Twitter are full of “Well he’s just an ex-postie” class based jibes which show how the Tories really, really don’t get it.
Ed B will have an interesting brief at HO as Ed M has already made clear our direction of travel on civil liberties issues (Khan at Justice also makes this clear). Implementing the leaders strategy is vital in a Shadow Cabinet, and I trust Ed B enough to believe he will do this well.
It will surprise precisely nobody that I think Harriet Harman is absolutely right in her call for 50% of the Shadow Cabinet to be made up of women. We have a great deal of talented women in Parliament – certainly more than enough to make up half a cabinet of experienced women in Parliament, and a new generation of women in the new intake who can be inspired to take these leadership roles on. A cabinet with for example – Anne Begg, Karen Buck, Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Harriet Harman, Meg Hillier, Margaret Hodge, Tessa Jowell, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, Joan Ruddock and Joan Walley is not a cabinet stuffed with also-rans but is vibrant and interestingly diverse in terms of political positioning (something I think would be an inevitable part of making the pool you are choosing from smaller).
I think quotas are vital in the world we live in. As has been shown by the dreadful recruitment rate in the Lib Dems and the lack of A-list success in the Tories, All Women Shortlists has consistently been proved to be the method that works best in ensuring that we get a more and increasingly representative party in Parliament.
But great women candidates don’t appear from nowhere. There need to be far greater support for women taking positions in the party at all levels to give them the experience and confidence to come through and challenge – particularly inareas that have traditionally been male dominated. We need to make sure working class women are also coming through, a d getting the support and networks that they need to continue to make our representative of the working class.
So I applaud Harriet today, and look forward to action in the future, led by changes at the top but in conjunction with strong grassroots action.