Are some of the Shadow Cabinet facing the axe?

26th February, 2013 8:44 am

Today the Shadow Cabinet are meeting, no doubt with the economy on their minds. But as we approach 18 months since Ed Miliband’s last major reshuffle – could some of them be facing the axe?

Rumours have circulated in recent weeks that numerous members of the Shadow Cabinet have been told that they need to “up their game” in the coming months if they want to stay in the Shadow Cabinet ahead of the General Election. Critics cite “a lack of intellectual ambition” from many of Labour’s shadow ministerial team, and some within the leader’s office are thought to be frustrated that Miliband is “his own outrider”, with few Shadow Cabinet members willing – or able – to make the major pushes either intellectually or in terms of campaigning that might help flesh out what a Labour government might look like.

Certainly Ed Miliband won’t be able to carry an entire General Election campaign on his own, and with many of Labour’s “big beasts” either leaving parliament or heading for the backbenches in 2010, there is certainly a need for some of the less well known / more anonymous Shadow Cabinet members to raise their profile if they are to play a significant role between now and 2015.

We put these rumours to a Senior Labour source last night – and they declined to comment.

The lack of a denial suggests that these conversations have already begun.

Miliband needs to be ruthless with his Shadow Cabinet in the coming months if they are to be an asset rather than an albatross. Ditching some of the weaker, quieter and less inspiring members of his shadow team and bringing in some people who can make waves in opposition – and more adequately hold their own – is essential if the party is going to weather a tough election campaign.

Next week I’ll be outlining who some of those people might be…

  • Matthew Pearson

    No need to wait until next week :-)
    Stephen Twigg (shadow education) will probably be top of your list. Although a nice enough chap, he’s no match for Gove, and even with many of Gove’s policies unravelling and chaos at the department widely reported, Twigg seems unable to make this advantage count. They need to find somebody for the education post who can alert the wider (voting) public to the the Tories privatisation by stealth attack on state schoolings, and the profligate waste of money on free schools.

    • Redshift1

      They won’t kick Twigg off shadow cabinet. Not to say he won’t be moved. But he won’t be kicked off.

      • reformist lickspittle

        I probably agree with that – Twigg’s abilities (and yes, he does have some, in spite of recent appearances) are maybe better deployed elsewhere.

        We need somebody combative to take on Gove (rather like Balls did)

      • dave stone

        Can’t imagine the Sainsbury wing would be prepared to accept the demotion of their representatives – even though they are largely responsible for Labour’s loss of credibility on the economy and rarely demonstrate any talent beyond the ability to carry a briefcase.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Some deadwood twiggs SHOULD be pruned from the tree. Eeek.

    • Danny

      Now wouldn’t that be an awful shame, to see a member of Progress lose such an esteemed Shadow Cabinet post 😉 *dons helmet*

    • David Parker

      Well he would be top of mine. After the NHS, Education is the most critical area where the Tories are hell bent on carrying through their privitisation, dismantling of the state agenda. Stephen Twigg seems to have no sense of what is at stake and little vision or political adrenalin.

    • 1985Tom

      Do you remember the early days of opposition, with Ed Balls shadowing education and tearing strips off Gove? Not so much in the slanging matches in parliament but through lots of clever probing questions exposing that Gove and his team hadn’t a clue what they were doing. Then he was moved, and since then, well…

  • Monkey_Bach

    I wish Liam Byrne would do a Laurence Oates and say, “I am just going outside and may be some time” before vanishing into the political wilderness forever. But he seems less likely to lay down his life for his brother than to lay down the life of his brother, sister, mother, father, or anybody else for his career. More’s the pity. Eeek.

  • AlanGiles

    “Miliband needs to be ruthless with his Shadow Cabinet in the coming months if they are to be an asset rather than an albatross.”

    I have been saying much te same thing (perhaps less poetically, Mark) for a year now, only to be met with sneers and derision from some of the LL tribalists.
    Byrne, whether or not he still agrees with three quarters of the Coalition’s welfare reforms, should have been out the day he announced in terms he was more keen on being Birmingham’s Mayor rather than a shadow minister.

    That dreadful Coaker chap, no matter how often he parrots “one nation”, is, like Ivan Lewis, neither use nor ornament.

    I have been unable to take Twigg seriously since that confused and confusing TV interview last June.

    I accept no man is a prophet in his own country, but it is reassuring to discover, however late in the day Miliband and his advisers can finally see what many of us have been saying, openly and frankly, for a very long time.

    I just hope any departures however, doesn’t give a second chance to the “I can be whatever you want me to be” Blairites and Brownites, especially boat-rocker Blears.
    I agree the time has come to look for new talent, because a lot of the old stock is looking very shopworn and raddled now.

    • markfergusonuk

      Completely disagree on Vernon Coaker. I wouldn’t get rid of him – I’d probably promote him. He’s smart, honest, thoughtful – I’m a fan.

      • AlanGiles

        Well, to each his own. :-)

      • Janet Edwards

        Mark, I enjoy reading Labour List but would find it very helpful if I could identify Party members from those who contribute just to put a spanner in the works. Is there any way this could be incorporated into the site so members are flagged up. Contributions from non-members are welcome but it’d be helpful to know who’s who.

  • Ben Cobley

    Good news, and the right thing to do. Since Ed revealed the One Nation idea at party conference, there has been a distinct lack of substantive follow-up, and that cannot just be his fault. From what I’ve seen we’ve been pretty much sailing on as before but with everyone appending a few ‘One Nation’s to their press releases and articles which detail the same old non-positions and non-policies.

    • AlanGiles

      “Since Ed revealed the One Nation idea at party conference, there has been a distinct lack of substantive follow-up, and that cannot just be his fault.”
      Ben, I think this is because it is a mere advertising slogan like “Persil washes whiter, or some sort of identification signal, say 1N and you think of Labour in the same way you think of Labrador puppies and lavatory paper.
      I don’t think they CAN say a lot. Nobody will ever make this tight little island “one nation”, and the slogan is as useless as Cameron’s “Big Society” – it means whatever the individual thinks it means, it’s nebulous, like trying to capture a slippery bar of soap in an oily bath. It says everything, and it says nothing.
      To be frank, the more I hear from the Milibanders the phrase that comes to my mind is “Tory-lite, but nicer”. Baby blue rather than Royal Blue.

      • Ben Cobley

        Do you really have to be so unpleasant Alan?

        • AlanGiles

          Ben, with respect what is so “unpleasant” about being honest?
          Do you seriously believe that this country will ever be entirely equal, therefore “One Nation?.
          If so I am astonished. It will never happen, especially when politicians, regardless of party, regard themselves as special, and get special treatment.
          Sorry if this is unpleasant as well, but I just prefer to face facts, and I am not taken in by advertising slogans which mean nothing

        • aracataca

          Unfortunately it’s the way he is Ben.

          • AlanGiles

            Perhaps some jejune 16 year olds are naive enough to believe that Labour (or anybody else) can deliver “One nation”, but quite frankly I doubt if Labour ministers and MPs even believe it themselves. Just as “my party will be purer than pure” it is a promise that cannot be delivered. Miliband makes a great deal about his “comprehensive school” for example, to prove his credentials. he fails to mention his background and Oxford to go with it.
            Politicians are part of a priviledged elite, and I doubt they will ever be prepared to give that up – they have a sense of entitlement.

    • Andrew Fisher

      Think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Ben. The real issue is the lack of clear political framework from which we are attacking this awful government, and in most areas a lack of policies to counter with.

      I don’t say that to absolve individual shadow ministers – Twigg and Byrne in particular have been worse than useless, in contrast to say Burnham – but cabinet as a whole is collectively responsible for building a credible alternative.

    • AlanGiles

      Here is another wonderful example of how politicians believe in “1N”,
      Now just supposing Joe Bloggs went into his local and ordered drinks but “forgot” to pay for them……..

  • Judy Dickinson

    Stephen Twigg my top of the list – nice man that he is.

  • PaulHalsall

    The young age at which we dispatch politicians in this country is ludicrous. Is is really a daft idea to suggest bringing back Alaister Darling – he is only just over 60. I am not pushing for Darling in particular, merely suggesting that we have gone overboard in the UK in promoting over young mps.

    • AlanGiles

      I think it is a bit like leading a big band, Paul – you need some younger players to bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm, but you also need older and more experienced players to play some of the tougher scores. It needs a good mix and far too many of the players in the Mili-Band have only just left music college

  • NT86

    Sshhhh don’t mention Liam Byrne. You’ll upset that Renie Anjeh person who occasionally pops on here to hysterically yell at us for disagreeing with him. Say you want Byrne gone from the Shadow Cabinet, and he’ll say that we want Miliband to lurch to ‘teh far radical militant left, etc, etc’.

  • Megalomaniacs4u

    Given Ed doesn’t know where he wants to go – how can the shadow cabinet help him unless he gives them some clue?

  • Matthew Blott

    I’d heard lots of good things about her but Rachel Reeves has been a big let down for me. Given the importance of the economy – and I agree with Mark Ferguson that this is the area Labour should be ruthlessly devoting their attention to – it is especially concerning that Reeves has failed to inspire and one has to wonder whether she is up to the job.

    • Janet Edwards

      What? Rachel Reeves is excellent in her brief, is knowledgeable and handles aggressive questioning very well. Danny Alexander, Chloe Smith and now it seems David Gauke, are frightened of debating with her. We have a strong treasury team and Ed should leave it be.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Reeves reminds me of a Stepford Wife. I think she may be clockwork. Eeek.

    • NT86

      She’s got more experience in economics than George Osborne, but she seems to convey a message that often sounds shallow and tribalistic. Not good politics.

      • Matthew Blott

        I agree – see Janet Edwards comment below. Some in the Labour Party love her but repeating “too far, too fast” all the time doesn’t cut it with most voters.

  • James Morgan

    Jarvis to replace Harman.

    Twigg to be replaced by someone vaguely sentient would be good.

  • markfergusonuk

    I’m afraid that unless the party give us a list of all members (which is never going to happen) there’s no way of verifying members, if that’s what you mean?

    • Janet Edwards

      OK, I see the problem. Thanks for the reply.

    • Janet Edwards

      OK, I see the problem. Thanks for the reply.

  • AlanGiles

    If it helps Ms. Edwards, I was a party member from 1963 until just a few years ago, but I am sorry to say Blair’s antics, compounded by the expenses scandal, which showed many Labour MPs were just as dishonest as Tory ones, ending with the disgusting Purnell persecuting the sick disabled and unemployed, by embracing David Freud, was the last straw in my case.

    I would like to see a Labour government, if it was genuine, but I frankly do not feel Miliband has the clout or the ability to do much more than slightly rearrange the Labour party of the past 2 decades. The “one nation” claptrap is undeliverable, and I find it highly offensive that Miliband and his team think we are all naive enough to swallow such nonsense. I won’t rehearse my reasons for saying so here, but they are on the site if you want to read them.

    Really, to use the old, but true cliche’, I didn’t leave the Labour party – the Labour party left me.

    If I throw spanners, they are honest spanners, and it is my genuine belief there is now little to choose between the three main parties – they are like hungry dogs scrapping for the same bone, and will say anything, however trite or ridiculous their words sound, to try to ingratiate themselves.

  • Pingback: A Shadow Cabinet reshuffle worth having | Left Futures()

  • Brumanuensis

    I don’t want Byrne to resign; I want him fired. Out of a cannon preferably.

    See also: Flint and Lewis.

    • AlanGiles

      I think Ed Miliband showed his weakness last year about this time when Byrne told him that if he had the chance to become the Labour candidate for Mayor of Birmingham he would resign from the shadow cabinet. At least Sion Simon had the grace and guts to resign prior to his decision, Byrne, typically wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

      It should have been obvious to Miliband that Byrne was not exactly devoted to his job, and if he had a scintilla of self-respect and backbone, he should have sacked him then. I frankly doubt he is up to doing it now.

  • Dave Postles

    Ex-member, not likely to return, but always hopeful. I now pay my subscription to the Green Party, without much enthusiasm, to support some sort of left agendum.

  • Dave Postles

    Ex-member, not likely to return, but always hopeful. I now pay my subscription to the Green Party, without much enthusiasm, to support some sort of left agendum.

  • Dave Postles

    Ex-member, not likely to return, but always hopeful. I now pay my subscription to the Green Party, without much enthusiasm, to support some sort of left agendum.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Sack Liam Byrne.


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