There will be no return to the Shadow Cabinet for Labour “greybeards”

June 23, 2013 10:44 am

Earlier this week I profiled 5 “wise heads” – ex-ministers who Ed Miliband could bring into the Shadow Cabinet during his impending reshuffle. Yet that clearly won’t be happening – as sources close to Miliband have briefed both the Mirror and the Telegraph that there will be no return for the “greybeards”. Both have pretty much the same quote:

“There will be no return for the grey beards. Ed wants to put across a message of change for 2015.”

Interestingly though, there was no similar rebuttal for a piece I wrote a week earlier highlighting five women from the 2010 intake that Miliband could put in the Shadow Cabinet. They’re all new, and would certainly constitute “change”.

Place your bets…

  • Hilary Burrage

    WHY is ‘change’ equated positively, both here and by MilibandE, with ‘lack of experience’? It’s not as though we’re doing so wonderfully with the present people.

    ‘Wiseheads’ – some have been mentioned, others with at least as much experience remain sadly unremarked; please *think* more carefully – are not by any measure the same as ‘greybeards’ (to my mind an ageist, sexist and unpleasant term).

    It is incredibly frustrating to see Labour at the top play the presentation game, just like the other parties with their smart young men who profess ‘leadership’, when we should be focused on what actually matters, i.e. getting a grip on the dreadfulness of current politic…. and looking outwards to share with and support everyone else whilst we do so.

    I am genuinely allied neither to so-called Blairites nor Brownites, not metrocentric nor classist, but I am as always strongly attracted to decent and good ideas which meld economic understanding with humane and sustainable policies.

    To get to that you need more than ‘just’ smart young things or ‘just’ seasoned campaigners; you need a range of all ages and gender / ‘race’, and a mix too of other characteristics.

    You need to listen to, and respect, everyone; but I’m not sure that’s happening.

    What do others, the majority away from the Westminster Village, think?

  • AlanGiles

    With all due respect,, one of your suggestions was Mrs Beckett. By the time of the election she will be 72 – an age when most sensible people have retired. She would be 77 at the end of the Parliament assuming it ran 5 years. I can’t remember Ms. Hodge’s age, but again she is the wrong side of 60.

    As for Alistair Darling, didn’t he want even deeper cuts than those proposed already?. As for Pat McFadden – didn’t he want to privatise Royal Mail, which, as I understand it, Labour is now against – or not quite so for?

    AG 23/6/13 1216BST

  • dave stone

    Phew, what a relief!

  • crosland

    Personally, if anyone can point out who in the intake would do better than Alistair Darling I’d like them to point him or her out ? What use is a group of younger or ‘new’ people if the best talents aren’t apparently even being considered ?

    • dave stone

      You only have to look at the state we’re in to get an estimation of the ‘talents’ of the greybeards. Even someone as inexpert as myself could have achieved equally disastrous results with very little effort – and I would’ve been happy to deliver it for much less the the wage and expenses paid to an MP/Minister.

      • crosland

        Strange, I thought ‘we’ were in a mess because the non-greybeards in the party insisted on a three month long coronation for someone who lost, which allowed the coalition to blame labour for the banking mess and everything else ? Surely the state we are in is down to the tories and their quisling friends the Lib Dems, who have been in office for three years and trashed the economy even more ?

        • dave stone

          The state we’re in is down to the failure of the neo-liberal project. The market was the god that failed.

          So I’m thinking back a little further – to the ‘end of boom and bust’, to an ideological belief in the infallibility of the market and to the hitching of Labour’s wagon to the now crashed neo-liberal project (as recently admitted by Lord Sainsbury in his recent book, Progressive Capitalism).

        • leslie48

          Not just the long interlude when the coalition trashed us but also the long disappearance without trace of Gordon, Blair, Mendelssohn and Campbell etc., – all of whom had done a good job but just let the media run riot while book writing was sorted. It was to be some time before they came back to suggest some Tory criticism.

          • crosland

            Have to admit been doing other things but surprised by some comments.

            Mr Stone quite rightly raises neoliberalism and presumably acknowledges then that Thatcher not Blair was the main culprit in our banking crisis, as she scrapped the lending rules to allow council house sales in the 80’s, but apparently an incoming labour govt was expected to reverse this ? Duh ?

            Then we were supposed to restrospectively change the direction of USA legislation on the glass/seagal amendments steered through by Reagan then Clinton (with newt and co) and
            winning three general elections wasn’t good enough, but we replaced Blair with that great winner brown ?

            Meanwhile, leslie48 feels abandoned by parts of the party who got shat upon by the same losers who went on to bottle a general election and then go off and sulk or hide afterwards ?

            Does Leslie48 really think those trashed by a bunch of power mad losers were going to ride back to defend their inept approach to taking on the real enemy ? Actually they tried during th election but no-one listened – that includes our current ‘campaign leader’ Tom Watson, whose weekly emails are largely ignored across the country.

          • leslie48

            Sorry I do not understand the comments in the last two paragraphs.

      • crosland

        What has MP wages got to do with this ? Sounds like a sun newspaper comment ? How does an ‘inexpert’ (whatever that is) help govern a country based on ignorance of facts but some sort of gullible gut instinct ?

        • AlanGiles

          “What has MP wages got to do with this”

          I would respectfully suggest that – because an increase in salary is the one thing that unites all MPs of all parties, and there forever seems to be yet another push to raise them, – the fact that all three main leaders and their acolytes seem to relish the idea of “austerity” for “ordinary” people and seem to wish to outdo each other with “iron discipline” MPs wages has a great resonance with a great deal of the public.

          AG 25/6/13 0857BST

        • dave stone

          I’m ‘inexpert’ in that I’m an amateur politician.

          A mate of mine, in conversation with a Tory councillor down the pub, told the councillor: “I’ve got all the experience needed to do your job – I’ve been making mistakes all my life.”

          Just because some one is considered ‘expert’ and is highly paid is no guarantee that they’ll deliver a desirable outcome (think bankers, politicians and economic crisis).

          So yes, my inexpert self could just as effectively wrecked the economy – and I could have done it without £millions in bonuses or without £65k + expenses.

          Regarding Thatcher and Blair: yes I agree, Thatcher set us on the path to downfall but couldn’t the incoming New Labour government with it’s high talk of a ‘stakeholder’ economy have halted the neo-liberal thrust?

          The thing is, in the main, political and government orientation arises from ideological beliefs (which are very similar to religious beliefs) and ideological belief not dependent on ‘expertise’ nor is it amenable to reason.

          • crosland

            You just repeated that you think someone could do just as well on less money yet that is the salary an MP receives. Why would being paid less as an MP improve the quality of decision making or a policy ?

  • JoeDM

    Cameron & Osborne will be very relieved that Alistair Darling is not to replace Balls !!!

  • Monkey_Bach

    tfft. Eeek.

  • leslie48

    Alistair Darling would look impressive and so would Alan Johnson – whatever- we need authoritative looking politicians who when are TV are cogent, quick, hard hitting and can demolish the Tories within seconds. Caroline Flint, Hariet Harman – yes have good media skills. Younger shadow ministers can be too clone-like , long winded, too defensive – for me for example despite the Gove ‘counter-revolution’ in schools Twigg does not have any presence. Ask a staff room full of people who Labour’s shadow minister of education is- few will know let alone the voting parents. Alexander is similar too long winded, as if talking to St. Andrews brightest. . When Tories are on – its short clear sentences, and about clearing up Labour’s mess when Labour are on its long winded defensive compromising twaddle.

  • markfergusonuk

    There are plenty of politicians who are more than capable of contributing well into their 70s

    • swatnan

      Not much hope then for the bright young things of making their mark with the old codgers still hanging around.

    • PaulHalsall

      Hillary would be 65 in 2016, and yet she still might run as US preisdent


    Hi Folks my first post so be gentle, my worry is that it’s not the grey beards the general public are scared of. Its the current crop still in the cabinet that is for ever equated with the deficit and that “note”, admittedly unfairly. It’s clear on the “doorstep” people want change (from the current condem crop) but they see the same people that the tory party are very effectively slinging mud at, waiting in the wings to take power. A real strong leader would do something about that regardless of standing or reputation of certain people – no one is bigger than the party. Message of change !, are they certain ? Balls, Harman, even Andy Burnham is getting bad press today

    Would it also be a step too far to ask for a representative cross section of people in the cabinet from all classes of society. All parties are starting to look like the bullingdon club (put all ministers together could you spot the socialist) , so it’s not a mystery why no one, especially younger people are voting.

  • leslie48

    Do not agree – Margaret Hodge is absolutely an asset; a model of what the others should be, clear, cogent, message focused and able to expose the wrong doings of Tory Britain. They were queuing up for her the other day -Sky, BBC etc., and in the quick minutes given to her she demolished Google, Amazon’s etc., antics which of course is robbing our society while we cut social services, disability services or whatever else you can consider. How old was Churchill in WW2? circa 65-70 . How old was he as later PM – late 70s…

    • rekrab

      Hmmm, Lady Hodge. ” Hodge’s family company, was founded by her father Hans Oppenheimer more than 60 years ago. Analysis of Stemcor’s latest accounts show that the business expected to pay UK corporation tax of just £157,000 on revenues in the UK of more than £2.1bn in 2011. The UK tax payable on the group’s global profits of £65m was only £743k, reduced further by £586k in respect of tax that had been overprovided in prior years. The company explained that the low effective rate of UK tax was because they incurred a loss in the UK in 2011 due to difficult trading conditions.”
      You gotta know your enemy!

    • AlanGiles

      Mark and Leslie: Sorry for a joint reply but as my posts take so long to appear brevity is – if not the soul of wit – it saves two messages on the same topic being in “moderation”
      Sadly this is the age of the young politician – even in the Conservative party – it is widely rumoured that Ken Clarke (72) one of the more “human” Conservative politicians – (and no doubt certain people will mark me down as a closet Tory even for saying that!), -is now considered “too old” for the front bench, and is to be pensioned off.

      Experience is a great virtue, but not, it seems, in the world of telly-politics, where looking good is considered more important than knowledge and competence..

      Also, has anyone even asked Mrs Beckett if she WANTS to be on the front line again?. Some of us know when it’s time to retire – it has it’s compensations (“Bargain Hunt” every day for example, which beats PMQs every day, but especially on TV)

      AG 24/6/13 0823BST

  • leslie48

    Hilary, Great piece. I do not think ‘diversity’ is so much the problem whether its gender, ethnicity , class, or region -Labour is well represented by such groups.

    What matters is ‘the way you tell them’ ! Young people such as educated students in London voted in their thousands for Boris and asked why would say he will sort out the problems or he’s like one of us – easy to talk to etc., It did *not* matter he was Oxford or a classicist or ex-Spectator writer. It was his communication skills, his quick wit , his ease talking to anyone. We cannot all be like that. But we have to avoid the humour-less clone-like monotone of some of our speakers. In the end voters vote for the person and their message about real people’s problems now- irrespective of origin – that looks ‘natural’, at ease. Ken Clarke or Vincent Cable or John Prescott are other examples. I think as you have more experience in life you take it slightly less pompously.

  • Daniel Speight

    Of course the ‘we hate Ed Balls’ group would love to see him replaced by Alistair Darling. Thing is how was his form when he had the real job before? Was he a success? To my mind he was just another of the guilty men, which included Blair, Brown, and yes Balls and Ed Miliband. Darling never gave any indication that he has broken from past economic policies and ideas that originated in Thatcher’s governments. At least we had hints of leaning towards a Keynesian answer from some of the others. OK all be it just a very slight inclination in that direction.

    • PaulHalsall

      Balls was shameful yesterday on the Andrew Marr show.

    • crosland

      I don’t hate balls I just ask the clinical question like many do ‘after three years the economic credibility of labour with voters is still negative – with under two years to a general election is Balls doing his job (as his team is his largely his choice) if we are still in a negative position is it approaching the time limit for a change ?

      While we are considering this, if we are playing the blame game of the ‘guilty ones from the last govt’ (not something I personally support) what is balls doing there anyway, as he is up to his proverbial ?

      • Daniel Speight

        Crosland do you even read the comments you are commenting on? I do wonder as it says in the comment this.

        To my mind he was just another of the guilty men, which included Blair, Brown, and yes Balls and Ed Miliband.

        Do you see the name Balls there? If you did there was no need for you to write this.

        While we are considering this, if we are playing the blame game of the ‘guilty ones from the last govt’ (not something I personally support) what is balls doing there anyway, as he is up to his proverbial ?

        Are you just trying to see how many comments you can make in the shortest time, or are you getting paid per word?

  • crosland

    Actually I could spot a democratic socialist from a Tory so that comment is daft. As fo young people, most of them don’t vote until after a certain age but neither d a lot of their parents ?

  • crosland

    The labour party has always been a broad church so I’m sure many agree with you.


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