So much for Miliband’s ‘New Generation’

New Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Alan Johnson with Labour candidate for York Outer James Alexander, in Westminster. Image credit: time-4-change.org.uk

New Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Alan Johnson with Labour candidate for York Outer James Alexander, in Westminster. Image credit: time-4-change.org.uk

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.

One comment

  1. 12 Oct ’10 at 11:43 pm

    Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

    I don’t see why Johnson being a former TU official and postman makes him unqualified to be Shadow Chancellor. Many of the more recent Chancellors (Darling, Brown, Howe, Healey, Callaghan) didn’t study economics and had no real grounding in it. Johnson has been in front-line politics for a long time, has experience in several key departments such as Health and the Home Office and is hardly doing the job single-handedly. Granted, Balls or Cooper might be better grounded in economics, but I think Balls as Shadow Home is a shrewd choice and by not placing Cooper at the Shadow Treasury brief he’s both a) not slightly Balls and b) promoting a very able rising star.

    Burnham impressed many during the leadership contest and Healey was a competent housing minister. I think judgement needs to be reserved on the shadow team as a whole.

    As for your “slightly amusing and interesting fact,” did you not perhaps consider that many of those elected to the Shadow Cabinet were done so in part due to party unity (dissociating from the David Miliband supporters, for instance, would hardly be a step in the right direction?) and also were chosen on their own merits, rather than on whether or not they backed Ed or not?

    Whether this team succeeds in presenting a credible alternative to the Coalition proposals or not remains to be seen, but I have every faith that they shall do so.

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