After today’s announcement of the junior shadow ministerial positions, we now have a clear idea of Ed Miliband’s team, and the way in which he sees the talents available to him, and the party – with a combination of youth and experience, but still leaving some real talent (and some big beasts) on the backbenches.
One of the “New Generation” who has inspired thousands of column inches already is the talented newcomer Chuka Umunna, who will serve as one of Ed Miliband’s PPS’s. This is a smart move from the leadership, which allows Umunna to learn the ropes and gain experience at the top of the party without exposing him to the intense media pressure that he would receive in a junior shadow role. He’s been hotly tipped as a future party leader – by allowing him two years in a prominent role, but out of the direct media spotlight, Ed Miliband has ensured that might still happen.
Other members of the new intake have also been offered roles in which they will hope to impress the country in the same way that they have already impressed the party leadership. Rachel Reeves, with her knowledge and experience of economics, balanced with her likeable demeanor, will have an important role in both formulating and presenting Labour’s policies on the crucial issue of welfare. Chi Onwurah, with her wide-range of experience outside parliament, will be a staunch defender of business and industry in her native North East and the country at large. Chris Williamson will bring his vast range of experience in local government to Caroline Flint’s team at communities and local government – and prove that the new generation is a state of mind rather than an age bracket.
Some experienced heads in junior roles will add weight to their departmental teams. Chris Bryant promises to be a strong, rigorous and thoughtful voice on constitutional and political reform in a justice team that will also benefit from the talents of Andy Slaughter and Diane Abbott will bring her passion to public health. Phil Woolas working on Ed Balls’ home office team is the one potential fly in the ointment – it is what Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister would have called, “a brave decision”. However it is clear that Miliband sees talent and potential in Woolas, otherwise he surely would have avoided someone still contesting a contentious court case.
As for those names that are notably absent, David Lammy will be heading to the back benches – although as chair or Ken Livingstone’s campaign for London mayor he will no doubt still be busy, and play an important role in London Labour. Ben Bradshaw is another surprise, although a period of time away from the frontline may be more preferable for him than taking on a junior role after serving in the cabinet. Tom Harris has also been overlooked, and has blogged on the subject already this evening. Among the 2010 intake, LabourList favourite Lisa Nandy appears to have been overlooked. It would be disappointing if her ability and talents were not rewarded as quickly as other talented newcomers.
When taken alongside the earlier announcement of the shadow cabinet places last week though, it is clear that the “New Generation” was not a quickly-inserted rhetorical flourish to Ed Miliband’s two conference speeches. In reality it is a wholesale re-alignment of the party, and potentially a more fully formed version of the “new politics” that Nick Clegg claimed to believe in back in May. Talent has been drawn from across the party, and includes some new faces from within the PLP who will rightly expect to go far. The new generation continues to gather pace – it has picked up some impressive new advocates today.