Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle is drawing closer. I wrote back in February that the Labour leader had told several of his colleagues to pull their socks up or risk being kicked off Labour’s top table – and in the coming weeks we’ll see who Miliband believes is up to the task of government.
But when might the reshuffle take place? Here are the pros and cons of each of the coming weeks.
This week: The chances of a second vote on Syria this week look remote following Cameron’s humiliation last week and Obama’s decision to adjust the US timetable for action – leaving this week (relatively) clear (apart from the government’s attempts to silence charities, and this blog). It’s the first week back after a long and often uncomfortable summer, and Miliband may seek to use it to reward those who stood by him and dump those who were silent or silently mutinous. Reshuffling the pack this week also gives the Shadow Cabinet time (although not much) to prepare for Labour Party conference.
Next week – TUC conference: Ed Miliband will struggle to pull off a reshuffle next week – as he’s already got speaking at the TUC conference in Bournemouth on his schedule. That’s not to say that he won’t have time – clearly he will – but if he changes his after speaking to the TUC, it’s not hard to see how the Tories will spin any moves. If next week is reshuffle week, expect attacks on Miliband for changing the Shadow Cabinet after meeting his “union paymasters” – especially after Len McCluskey made clear his views on a few Shadow Cabinet members earlier this year.
Lib Dem conference: A week after TUC conference and the yellow half of the coalition will be meeting in Glasgow. Announcing a reshuffle during another party’s conference is a) flaunting Westminster convention and b) would mean that the reshuffle could get overshadowed by a party in government holding their annual get together. It’s possible that Miliband could reshuffle his team after Lib Dem conference (at the end of the week), but that would be perilously close to…
Labour conference: Could Miliband reshuffle his team in Brighton? On the one hand it would ensure maximum media attention (reshuffle+conference = media gold), but it would also be a nightmare from a party management point of view – the last thing anyone wants is aggrieved MPs sitting on panels and mixing with journalists when they’ve just been bumped. No thank you. And Miliband could reshuffle his pack immediately after Labour conference – but why would you bother? That would make many of the speeches from the week before redundant.
Tory conference: There is no point – at all – in reshuffling the Shadow Cabinet during Tory conference. Labour wouldn’t get a look in from the media and the whole thing would get ignored. It would look like Miliband was trying to shuffle his team whilst no-one was looking – and appearing shifty is never a good look.
After conference season: Miliband could very well decide to wait until after conference season – as every one of the four previous weeks are fraught with media management danger. However the problem is that now the reshuffle rumours have begun, waiting another month – including a week in the febrile atmosphere of conference – could lead to increased tension and suspicion from within the Shadow Cabinet. Nobody works at their best with the hangman’s noose hovering overhead.
This week look’s the best bet for Miliband to make his move – or else wait until October when conference season is over.