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By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-09-30 at 08.47.01 Seven quick points on the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle

  • David Cameron's first Shadow Cabinet appointments showed confidence.  Ed Miliband's show fear.  Cameron had won two-thirds of the vote in his election as Conservative leader.  Miliband won barely 50 per cent – and, as CCHQ has been reminding anyone who'll listen, failed to gain the support of either Labour MPs or Party members.  Consequently, the main appointments problem he faced was how to deal with Ed Balls – who came third in the poll, is the Shadow Cabinet's strongest economist, and whose wife, the numerate Yvette Cooper, came top in the Shadow Cabinet elections.
  • The appointment of Alan Johnson looks like a weak compromise.  Balls has been dispatched as Shadow Home Secretary to bully Theresa May.  Cooper has been sent out of the country altogether – for parts of year at least – to trot the globe as Shadow Foreign Secretary.  It looks as though Miliband wants to break up a rival power base.  Johnson is an agile and able operator well qualified to play class war politics opposite George Osborne.  That's fine for opposing "the cuts".  It's not so convincing if you're trying to persuade voters that you should be Britain's bank manager.
  • Miliband's going after Cameron's public service reforms.  I can't see Andy Burnham troubling Michael Gove, but Balls will harrass May, Douglas Alexander (who's a competent operator) will pursue Iain Duncan Smith and Miliband's given notice that Labour will harry Lansley's big fundholding change by appointing John Healey to health.  Healey was a very effective Minister, came second in the Shadow Cabinet elections and has a union campaigning background.  We're about to find out whether he can make use of it.
  • There are unresolved Labour policy tensions over the economy and civil liberties.  Johnson looks likely to try and follow Alistair Darling's lead on the pace of the spending scaleback.  A big question is whether Balls, Cooper and others provide a succession of dissenting noises off, weakening Johnson's authority – and Miliband's.  Johnson doesn't agree with Miliband's new-found support for civil liberties.  Will Balls line up with him on that particular issue, and try to paint the Tories as soft on crime?  What will he do on the immigration issue, to which he's more sensitive than some Labour MPs?  His relationship with Sadiq Khan, the new Shadow Justice Secretary, will be worth watching.
  • Miliband has downgraded Climate Change as a Labour issue.  The former Climate Change Secretary could have appointed a "big hitter" to the post, to show the priority he attaches to the issue.  He's appointed Meg Hillier.  I think that speaks for itself.  For the moment, Climate Change is off the radar as a central political issue.  The new Leader of the Opposition won't be following the old one to the Antarctic, with a sledge and huskes in tow.
  • The new Labour leader hasn't got the team he wants.  Jack Straw's let the cat of the bag by admitting that the Shadow Cabinet elections are "barking mad" and "daft", and that a third of it won't be appointed to government if Labour wins the next election.  Rightly or wrongly, I can't see Hillier troubling Huhne, Maria Eagle worrying Philip Hammond, Ivan Lewis ruffling Jeremy Hunt's composure, or Caroline Flint bothering Eric Pickles.
  • None the less, the Cabinet will now have to be on its toes.  Since the election, the Government's had no real target to aim at, since Labour's Shadow Cabinet was on its way out.  But by the same token, the Government's had no real opposition either.  Ministers now face a team of Shadows eager to prove themselves both to the leader who appointed them and the MPs who elected them.  The Coalition can expect a blizzard of Parliamentary questions and FOI requests.  Shadow Ministers will be on the hunt for new campaigns and Departmental leaks.

34 comments for: Cameron’s first Shadow Cabinet appointments showed confidence. Miliband’s show fear.

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