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Ed Miliband’s weak shadow cabinet batting order

21 May 2014

Most of the reshuffle-related excitement in Westminster is focused on a pending Tory one. But does Ed Miliband’s top team need a bit of freshening up too? I blogged last week that Labour backbenchers, including a number with serious experience of government, were unhappy with the way many of the Labour top dogs are failing to go out to bat for their leader. Miliband has certainly trodden on his stumps in the past few days with some broadcast gaffes, but he does have a problem with the batting order below him.

Yvette Cooper has worked hard to turn around the Labour position on immigration from the Gillian Duffy days to boasting that the party wants to be ‘tougher than the Tories’ (although that ‘tougher than the Tories’ line seems to be applied to any policy area that Labour wants to neutralise, including immigration and welfare, rather than make radical or distinctive policy proposals on). But she has struggled to land any blows on the Conservatives. Theresa May has been a very successful Home Secretary, but like all who hold her job, she’s had a few tricky issues to deal with on her watch. Cooper has rarely managed to turn these tricky issues into running stories that can seriously damage May, and her response to the stop-and-search announcement recently managed to irritate some on her own side who have been agitating for reform and who were pleased with May’s progress.

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Meanwhile Ed Balls does have a habit of either disappearing or making slightly bitchy comments when his leader is under the cosh, and other colleagues such as Andy Burnham spend as much time fighting accusations about their record as ministers as they do fighting the Tories (although Burnham has enjoyed a fair bit of success in winding his opponents up with emotive language about ‘our NHS’).

There is genuine enthusiasm in the Miliband camp, though, for those from the 2010 intake who do not have a previous record in government to defend and who are, according to senior sources, going great guns in causing trouble for the ministers they shadow. And while some of them supported David Miliband for leader, they give every impression of having been won over to Ed’s cause and are as happy to work as outriders for him as they are for their own policies. There’s particular praise for Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Gloria de Piero and Chuka Umunna, with insiders believing that all these shadow ministers have been able to make an impressive amount of headway.

But perhaps the Miliband camp needs a few tips from inside the Tory party. Ministers were genuinely surprised that the Labour shadow Education team didn’t manage to make more of a mountain out of the free schools row last week. One Conservative suggested to me that it would have been far wiser for Hunt to put up his junior colleague Kevin Brennan, a true terrier, to ask the urgent question in order to either summon David Laws to the Commons as Brennan’s true opposite number, or to make more of Laws’ absence. They thought Hunt missed a straight ball on this occasion.

Either way, it’s often difficult to galvanise people without at least the threat of a reshuffle on the cards. Before each reshuffle that Miliband has done in the past, there has been a flurry of activity from ministers identified as underperforming or in danger in some other way as they desperately try to save their jobs. Perhaps the Labour leader needs to drop a few hints to force some of his team to slog a bit harder.

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  • Peter Stroud

    The trade union barons put Miliband where he is now, not the MPs. The weakest man was elected because of his quasi Marxist views. Now he is doing the bidding of his union sponsors, and his weaknesses are coming to the fore. He has chosen a generally poor shadow cabinet, and he certainly does not act like a leader.

  • Smithersjones2013

    There’s particular praise for Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Gloria de Piero and Chuka Umunna,

    Posh Boy, The Horse, TellyBabe and Chucky? What a Quad that makes! Oh how the Misfits will be ridiculed from day one

  • Seldom Seen

    That single picture at the top of this article tells all about Milliband. Never has a party leader looked more uncomfortable in an apparently ‘real world’ situation (i.e. a garden centre). No wonder the poor little lamb doesn’t know what his weekly shopping bill is …

  • swatnan

    Personally I’d bin the lot, Chuka excepted, and start afresh. I’d bin Ed as well.

    • Alexsandr

      why on earth do you spare champagne socialist chuck-up from the bin?

    • Grumpy

      Umana is a total ignoramus who tries to bluff his way along by talking claptrap. Whenever he appears on TV with a half-decent interviewer he gets taken apart whenever the mildest challenge is made to any of his statements. He is such a bull artist that the genial Andrew Neil gets irritated by him, he told bare-faced lies recently on Question Time prompting Nigel Farage to call him a wilful liar or pig-ignorant. But he has form, he doesn’t know the difference between debt and deficit, between assets and income or that global companies operate in more than one country. I wouldn’t put him in charge of news-stand.

  • Alexsandr

    they need to defend their record in government
    they are still defecit deniers
    still no apology for unrestricted immigration
    5 of their MP’s went to jail for expenses theft
    paedophile apologists -that milliband still supports.
    dysfunctional brown with anger management issues. That non of the PLP had the guts to get rid of.
    need I go on?

  • RavenRandom

    Miliband is looking odder day by day, his shadow cabinet can smell him decaying and are keeping out of the way.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      That’s evil! But it made me chuckle.

  • Hello

    “There is genuine enthusiasm in the Miliband camp, though, for those from the 2010 intake who do not have a previous record in government to defend and who are, according to senior sources, going great guns in causing trouble for the ministers they shadow”

    Maybe that’s because ambitious politicians with previous experience have the good sense not to torpedo their own careers by saying lots of silly things live on television for a dead cause? The 2010 intake on the other hand are…impressionable, shall we say?

  • anyfool

    Particular praise for Chuka Umunna, did you miss Question Time when Chuka was eviscerated by Farage, his bottom lip quivered that much, I thought he was going to cry.
    I do believe Andrew Neil gutted him on finances last year, Rachel Reeves was moved because she could not handle her treasury brief.
    You have not done your homework.
    If either of these two had shown any gumption for their jobs, Ed Balls would be on the back benches, they have no one to replace him, sad for them but true.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      The author does not say that she thinks that they are impressive. She reports that senior figures in the Labour Party think that they are impressive. They are wrong, of course.

      • anyfool

        Yes she does report as what seniors in Labour think, but there is no reflection on that, it looks like she agrees with that scenario.

        • Ooh!MePurse!

          You could interpret it that way, I don’t see any evidence of agreement. Only the author can tell us what her view is. I think it was unfair to accuse her of not doing her homework when the comment is open to interpretation. A nice change to exchange views on here without personal comments or insults.

          • anyfool

            Okay to that, most comment on posts is just a reflection of someone`s interpretation, exclude Telemachus from that, he has multiple interpretations of each word, reflection is missing from his mind set.

    • Smithersjones2013

      No gentlemen would mention how a young lady handles or not her briefs. You cad sir!

    • sarahsmith232

      Did you catch the part where he referred to people as ‘the governed’? Very,v.v.v. telling moment, if you ask me.

  • WatTylersGhost
    • HookesLaw

      Thats brilliant. UKIP are turning left wing – thats another good reason for not voting for them. I suppose we can now safely and truly call them a National Socialist Party.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Yeah Imagine that Labour voters preferring UKIP over the Tories. Just where are the Tories going to get any additional votes from or does it mean that their ceiling is now little higher than what Howard polled in 2005?

        Tories heading out of power for a generation……..

    • Grumpy

      Wallace leave labour for UKIP? Will Grommit follow?

  • alabenn

    You say,
    Perhaps the Labour leader needs to drop a few hints to force some of his team to slog a bit harder
    And like him, the harder they try the worse it becomes, then the try becomes the lie,
    You also say.
    There’s particular praise for Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Gloria de Piero and Chuka Umunna.
    Hunt has been a disaster regardless of the spin put on him by your fellow scribblers, Reeves and Umunna have both been shown to be financially illiterate, do you never watch the Daily and Sunday politics, Andrew Marr is a Labour lackey with as much bite a jelly baby, any show on there is window dressing.

  • Frank Heaven

    Marvellous cricketing analogies – and very true observations.
    It would be interesting if Miliband, ahem, dropped Balls and moved Umunna or Reeves up the order.

    • Count Dooku

      Please let them move Nasal Reeves as SC. Hearing her and Miliband outwheeze each other will be sure to put voters to sleep on their way to the ballot boxes.

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