Shadow Cabinet Rankings – Burnham, Reeves and Harman on top, but is it wither the Blairites?

10th January, 2013 2:17 pm

The LabourList Shadow Cabinet rankings for 2012 – as voted for by our readers – are out today. And it’s Andy Burnham who takes the 2012 title as the most popular member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. The Shadow Health Secretary has been at the top of the rankings in our monthly surveys thoughout the year, so it’s little surprise to see him hold claim the crown – but after a 2nd place finish last year his popularity has only grown over the past 12 months.

Beneath Burnham though there are some significant movements compared to a year ago. Rachel Reeves has surged up into second place in the rankings (up six places on 2011) despite only being in post for just over a year. Her rise is mirrored by the fall of Ed Balls, who is down 9 places this year to 13th (although it should be noted that last year’s poll was conducted just before the Shadow Chancellor’s speech at Fabian Society conference last year, which was criticised by many Labour members).

In 3rd place this year – rising from 10th in 2011 – is Harriet Harman, which shows a renewed ardour from Labour activists for their Deputy Leader. Harman has worked hard in a difficult role (Culture, Media and Sport), but has been rewarded by LabourList readers for her efforts. Praise should also go to Sadiq Khan, Emily Thornberry and Mary Creagh who have all risen up the rankings this year despite holding portfolios in which it is difficult to demand attention. Below Harman, the trio of Cooper, Benn and Umunna have consilidated their positions over 2012 – with Jon Cruddas (a relative newcomer) in a number 6.

Of those who have fallen down the rankings over the past year, Tom Watson’s move from 1st down to 8th is likely to grab the attention of some, but to dwell on this would be unfair. After an impossibly good 2011 fighting News International, Watson fell back to earth in 2012 – but still gained a more than solid showing for someone with an essentially back room job. If Labour looks likely to win the next election – expect it’s strategist in the Shadow Cabinet to move back up the rankings in due course.

Elsewhere, is it wither the Blairites? Those who are most regularly handed that label (Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Liz Kendall – along with the bottom three of Twigg, Lewis and Byrne) have either seen a decline in their ranking over 2012, or a consolidation of an already weak position at the bottom of our rankings. The one person who is comfortably bucking that trend though is Caroline Flint, who moved up from 23rd to 16th this year – perhaps off the back of her campaigning work in the South.

1 Andy Burnham Up 1
2 Rachel Reeves Up 6
3 Harriet Harman Up 7
4 Yvette Cooper Down 1
5 Hilary Benn  –
6 Jon Cruddas n/a
7 Chuka Umunna Down 1
8 Tom Watson Down 7
9 Angela Eagle Up 2
10 Sadiq Khan Up 4
11 Maria Eagle Up 1
12 Emily Thornberry Up 4
13 Ed Balls Down 9
14 Douglas Alexander Down 7
15 Owen Smith n/a
16 Jim Murphy Down 7
17 Caroline Flint Up 6
18 Mary Creagh Up 3
19 Jon Trickett  –
20 Liz Kendall Down 7
21 Vernon Coaker Down 4
22 Michael Dugher Down 4
23 Margaret Curran Down 3
24 Rosie Winterton Up 1
25 Stephen Twigg Down 3
26 Ivan Lewis Up 1
27 Liam Byrne Down 1

Keep checking back this week, as we’ll have all of the rest of the results from the LabourList survey of 2012 – your MP of the Year – and how confident Labour activists are about the party’s chances of winning in 2015…

878 of you voted in our end of year survey. Thanks to everyone who took part

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  • NT86

    For Caroline Flint, I reckon that she’s done a pretty decent job so far of shadowing Ed Davey who’s overseen a really shambolic situation at the DECC with all the scuffles between himself and ministers like John Hayes.

  • AlanGiles

    Who would have thought it: Lewis and Byrne retain their positions, joined in the final three by Twigg – and after his ludicrous BBC TV interview last June, it’s a well deserved honour.

    • aracataca

      Never been keen on Lewis. He was awful at Conference.
      Your continued fixation with Liam Byrne is duly noted.

      • AlanGiles

        To come last virtually EVERY month suggests that something is very wrong. Not least, perhaps his willingness to jump ship if he could have become a Mayor suggests to others apart from me a certain dilitante’ attitude. The public are not so gullable they can’t spot a fake when they see one.

        • aracataca

          I’ll never convince you Alan but the ‘Blairites’ (as you put it) within the party are on the slide. ‘Blairism’ as such is effectively now just a collection of individuals. As with most collections of individuals some are pleasant, intelligent and thoughtful at a personal level (IMHO eg James Purnell, while others are not (IMHO eg Ivan Lewis)-having met both.

          Byrne isn’t popular within the party as these figures tell us. We’ve moved on. IMHO it’s time you did too.

          • AlanGiles

            I didn’t even mention the word “Blairites” (you are confusing me with Mark Ferguson who does use that word in the title of his piece).

            I am merely making the point that Byrne is considered by LL readers as a waste of space, and I imagine most of the public don’t even know who he is.

          • But those individuals, whether you give them a collective name or not, have influence when they are in the shadow cabinet. Extinction may be inevitable but there’s no harm in speeding up the process.

          • aracataca

            Our party has always been a broad church. Long may that continue. Everyone in the party has a part to play and of course everyone is perfectly entitled to express and propagate their views.

    • NT86

      It’s disgraceful that Byrne is even in that position. We have IDS who’s one of the most venal cabinet members around, and Byrne has put up absolutely no defence against the cuts to welfare. Bad enough the Labour government had James Purnell in that role. If there was any type of common sense, someone like Anne Begg would have been the shadow work and pensions secretary.

  • Byrne really is hopeless. After the recent debate, I’d rather have David Miliband, who at least was coming up with some serviceable ideas which fit in with the ‘predistribution’ concept.
    Stephen Twigg is a nice guy and a great local MP but in absolutely the wrong job. I actually think he’d do a good job at CM&S, giving Harriet time to do more with the party, within which she is popular and well respected. Vernon Coaker could then go to education as he’s currently in a non-job.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Agreed. Although Tony Blair’s protégé David Miliband is not a personal favourite of mine at least he did stand up like a man and passionately condemn the proposed ConDem real terms cut in benefits to the poor in a manner rarely seen these days. Byrne was terrible. Unequivocally awful. For the sake of the many over the career of the one – and a right one too as it happens! – Byrne should go so fast it will seem as if he never was!


      • aracataca

        I’ll get killed for saying so but James Purnell is also a nice guy and like ST and others primarily concerned with generating new ideas. Other aren’t. Byrne may have been bad but Jacqui Smith has been absolutely awful on the issue of the 1% limit basically saying Labour should have voted in favour of it.

        • Monkey_Bach

          There are probably people who would say that Harold Shipman was a exemplary medical practitioner and a very nice man to boot… apart from the 250+ of his patients whom he may have euthanised and subsequently wrote death certificates for.

          From another perspective how many THOUSANDS of sick, infirm, and disabled men and women, now dead, would still be alive today if James Purnell – and Yvette Cooper for that matter – had never been Secretary of State for Work and Pensions? How many hundreds of thousands of lives did that one man worsen, ruin, or end? Whether all of that pain and misery was caused deliberately (à la Harold Shipman) or resulted as a malignant side effect of bad policy decisions made by a delusional and incompetent individual not up to the job (à la Iain Duncan Smith) or in savage ignorance (à la a spiteful and sadistic child tearing the wings from the body of an inoffensive butterfly) the damage wrecked in people’s lives (and deaths) is the same and in my view James Purnell was, is, and always will be a vain and very nasty piece of work indeed, personally responsible for some of the most disastrous and deadly mistakes in social policy ever made in modern British history.

          No good man would have done what James Purnell did with such alacrity, relish and enthusiasm and with such little consideration. The only good thing I can think of to say about Purnell is that he’s history. Toast. The pity of it is that the history mentioned is Labour Party history and that the foul odour of Purnell’s spoor still taints what remains of that once great political party.

          • aracataca

            James Purnell = Harold Shipman?- Working on the basis that this is not intended to be a serious comment.

          • Monkey_Bach

            I was not claiming that equivalence exists between Shipman and Purnell merely making an observation that however bad or wicked a person is or has been there will always be someone, somewhere, who will speak well of them, or try to defend them, or deny and try to refute that they did bad things. As far as raw statistical data goes James Purnell and Yvette Cooper’s activities at the DWP have led directly to the deaths of far more sick and disabled citizens (via the Atos scandal and similar) than Harold Shipman caused by premeditated murder during the course of his medical career. To those who have perished their deaths, precipitated by stress, worry, anxiety, ceaseless bullying and harassment, or through losing their home or lion’s share of their income, is as final and forever as any unnatural death caused by a lethal injection administered by a madman.

            Was my comment about Purnell supposed to be taken seriously?

            Only about as seriously as cancer.


          • Chilbaldi

            He isn’t history. He’ll try to come back before long.

          • Monkey_Bach

            Hell will be an ice rink before Purnell returns as an MP. Eeek.

        • ColinAdkins

          Purnell! He typifies the Oxbridge elite’s sense of entitlement. He is not as good as you or he thinks he is. He is probably grubbing around in the influence peddling game with his old mate Tim Allan.

          • AlanGiles

            “Purnell! He typifies the Oxbridge elite’s sense of entitlement. He is not as good as you or he thinks he is”

            Nothing sums up Purnell’s mixture of
            arrogance, ignorance, crass stupidity and conceit than the time he
            lost his wallet and security pass in Soho:


            Having previously left confidential
            documents on a train while he used his mobile phone elsewhere, you
            might have thought he would have learned from his past mistakes but
            this exchange with the man who found and handed in the wallet sums up
            the pomposity of the silly little man perfectly:

            “I told him I thought it might be
            important because I could see he was an MP. Mr Purnell replied,
            ‘I’m not an MP, I’m a member of the Cabinet’.”

  • It’s an absurdly large Shadow Cabinet and the folly of too large a Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet was well revealed in that Jubilee photo of the Cabinet with the Queen. It prevents Cabinet government when in power and prevents shadow cabinet discussion when in opposition; it makes it too easy for a tight clique at the centre to run the show or, worse still, Presidential sofa rule.

    The worrying position is that of Stephen Twigg, a decidedly nice man who is not having the impact education demands. Part of his problem is the hamstring of not being free to announce what Labour will reverse for fear the new Tory creation of so-called free schools will be entrenched by 2015, but also because Labour sold the pass by creating academies as a separate class of institution from the bulk of comprehensive schools.

    Liam Byrne’s position at the bottom of the heap is, in my view, undeserved as he speaks at the Despatch Box with commanding authority. Ivan Lewis is also a decent man doing good work, but the limelight seems to evade him, or him it. For my part Caroline Flint and Rachel Reeves impress me less than perhaps they should; both are put up by the Whip’s Office too frequently for political chat shows where they say little profound or original, and I cannot see either holding down a major Cabinet seat for long.

    What we met do is have in the key department briefs of Education, Health, Housing and Transport (and perhaps Defence) people who will become in government the Cabinet members for those briefs and hold them for three or more years. Too often these are stepping stones for those moving onwards and upwards or consolation prizes for those whose Cabinet careers are ending.

    • leslie48

      Disagree Caroline Flint is good on TV chat shows and can articulate her position well; moreover Labour need women like Caroline who relates very well to voters who see someone with commitment not another boring talking politics head.

    • Alexwilliamz

      Twigg in gvt god help education. The man is a massive lightweight and education is going to be critical for this country’s longer term future. No one in westminster as far as I can see has much of a clue what it is for, let alone how to organise it to maximise its benefit to individuals and society as a whole.

  • LordElpus

    As someone who used to vote Labour I look at Rachel Reeves, Harriot Harmon and Yvette Cooper in positions 2, 3 and 4 and see one of the reasons I don’t.

    • ColinAdkins

      Sorry are you refering to the fact they are women? Please be clear what you are saying.

      • LordElpus

        Sorry to disappoint you but it has nothing to do with them being women. (You can put the Political Correctness book back – issued as standard by the Labour Party).

        It’s because they are bloody useless.

  • leslie48

    I am sure Stephen Twigg is good on many things; but Labour is making no impact on education and has no presence. This last year saw the GCSE crisis, the changes to A Level ( significantly the removal of January retakes from next year hitting working class kids most), the segregation of academies from others, the big drop in university applications, the crisis in post-graduate education; secondary education is and remains a selective tool for middle class control, vast social division and in places especially in the North low expectations. We need ‘a big and punchy hitter’ who can take on Gove , poor professionalism and vested interest. Lets not forget a lot of voters think there is a good revolution taking place in education instead of the actual elitist counter-revolution.

    • leslie48

      Moreover the idea of academies is not bad in itself ; the city academies Labour started were for schools which had completely failed their year 11 pupils. Increasingly now Gove’s new academies are being used for social segregation and a substitute for improving all local comprehensives.


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