Last week Ed Miliband made his first major decision after becoming Labour leader.
The selection of the Shadow Cabinet naturally draws a lot of attention and pressure, and some are commenting that the new party leader folded under that pressure.
Both Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper were tipped to become Shadown Chancellor of the Exchequer, but Miliband surprised everybody with the selection of former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
Both Balls and Cooper, who are also husband and wife, have economic credentials and seemed the most suited to the role. Did Miliband back out of making a tough choice between the two and opt for a safe third party?
The move to appoint Johnson could be perceived as a tactical selection to try and unite the party. However, the former postman and trade unionist seems to be even less qualified for the role of Chancellor than George Osborne. So, unite he may, but on matters actually related to the economy he may stuggle to put Osborne under as much pressure as Balls or Cooper might have done. They have been given Shadow Home and Foreign Secretary respectively.
More important than the specific post of Shadow Chancellor, though, is the make up of the Shadow Cabinet overall.
Rather than ushering in a new generation of Labour, and re-capturing the confidence of the nation, the group is mostly full of Labour old-guard.
Labour looks dangerously like a meager re-shuffle of the composition that just lost the last general election. Rather than inject new energy and faces into the thick of the party, the same old faces are lingering on.
Healey on health, Burnham on education, Harman on international development. Not exactly a catalysing formula for change.
Rather than ushering in a new generation of Labour… the group is mostly full of Labour old-guard
A slightly amusing and interesting fact about the voting for cabinet members was that out of the ten most popular candidates who were selected for the cabinet pool, zero of them chose Ed Miliband as their preffered candidate in the leadership election.
This appears to leave Labour in a rather peculiar situation; where Labour’s top brass are still an old generation, and they have been given a leader they did not want courtesy of the union’s vote.
The tone of the Labour conference was all about uniting the party and uniting behind the new leader.
But, this Shadow Cabinet is full of people who have felt the full force of losing an election. They might not put up with Ed Miliband’s mediocre speeches if ratings do not climb.
Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper may be all smiles for the press and expressing support for Ed, but should his leadership waiver, they will be first in line to replace him after being overlooked for No.2.