One step forward, two steps back?
Ed Miliband reshuffled Labour’s Shadow Cabinet earlier this week, 1½ weeks after the #lab13 and since three of Len McCluskey’s four horsemen of austerity have been either demoted or sacked many, particularly the Tory blogosphere saw this and reflected on it as a reinforcement of Miliband’s conference speech vector and a move to the Left. The full story is probably more nuanced than the stories told by the mainly right wing commentariat but you can take your choice from Red Ed stamps McClusky’s Marxism on Labour to Miliband punishes the poor messengers.
Jim Murphy was replaced as Shadow Spokesman for Defence and moved to International Development, Stephen Twigg (Education) and Liam Byrne (Welfare and Pensions) have been sacked and replaced respectively by Tristan Hunt and Rachel Reeves. Murphy’s demotion is a mystery but it may be that he tried to stampede the Party into replacing Trident with “four boats”, a position that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are both likely to oppose, if only on cost grounds and hence demand some say. So if Murphy was let go because he developed a line, even if it is the same as the Tory position, Twigg was let go because he failed to do so; he failed to articulate a differentiated position, even permitting free schools to become the weathervane issue is a mistake.
The most dramatic change was Liam Byrne’s sacking. His problem was twofold; the bedroom tax and that he’d lost the confidence of the Party at large. Repeal of the Bedroom Tax was one of Ed Miliband’s big promises at #lab13. It can’t have helped that Ed Miliband needed some big portfolio spaces for the promotions. Obviously I am not in the room when Ed Miliband and Liam Byrne were discussing both policy and parliamentary tactics but the evidence is that Byrne wanted to compete on being a shit; this is not what the Party wanted, nor it would seem what Miliband wanted either.
One reason that this should not be seen as a Left vs. Right conflict is that Douglas Alexander has been made General Election co-ordinator, a promotion, and Gloria Del Piero has been brought into the Shadow cabinet as Minister for Women and Equalities. Dianne Abbott, the Left’s leadership contender in 2010 was let go. Reeves has moved from Shadow Chief Secretary where she may find the sloganistic economic policy of “Too far, too fast” an albatross as she needs an ideological armoury beyond economics to make sense of the Work and Pensions portfolio. A lot of Labour’s local government access will be disappointed that Jack Dromey was moved from Housing to Police. The hope of meaningful change in Housing that he articulated is reported at Redbrick in this article.
While the subtitle suggests I think the reshuffle is a backward move, Murphy and Byrne’s right wing positions on Trident and Social Security will not be missed, and Twigg failed to articulate an opposition to the Government on Education; something the Labour Party and the country needs.
Amongst all the left/right measurements the increase in the number of women and the increase in the class of 2010 has got lost, for the full S.P. check out the Labour List report of the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle here.
Late again, don’t think there’s too much hindsight.