Wednesday 15 September 2010

The Shadow Cabinet steeplechase: runners and riders

The Labour leadership race is marked by an eerie public calm as we enter 'the week of nobody knows'.Behind the scenes, the gentle arts of persuasion are being applied to remaining waverers around the House of Commons. Publicly, the campaigns are offering spin and counter-spin about momentum - declaring themselves, respectively, "increasingly confident" and "also increasingly confident" of victory. Perhaps these surprising revelations are assisting with volunteer morale, as their practical impact on remaining voters would appear very limited indeed.

But attention inside the Parliamentary party is now increasingly distracted from the top job as what was once called "the most sophisticated electorate in the world" begins to contemplate what might end up as a 50-strong field for the first Shadow Cabinet elections for a generation. Nominations open on the Sunday week of the Manchester conference and close on the Wednesday. The results will be announced at 9pm on Thursday 7th October.

Labour Uncut is promising exhaustingly exhaustive coverage. Next Left is much more likely to dip in and out - and we also suspect that, after all of the drama, the new Shadow Cabinet may look suspicously like the old Shadow Cabinet

The rules: 19 members will be elected in addition to ex-officio members, who include the new leader, deputy leader Harriet Harman, and the leader of the Labour peers. MPs will need to vote for at least six men and six women for their vote to count. The chief whip will now be elected separately, with the incumbent, Nick Brown, the favourite.

Ex-Cabinet ministers who have confirmed they won't be standing

MPs: Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, Bob Ainsworth.
Peers: Peter Mandelson, Andrew Adonis.

MPs currently in the shadow Cabinet expected to stand again

men: Non-leader Miliband (tbc), Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, John Denham, Sadiq Khan, Hilary Benn, Douglas Alexander, Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Peter Hain, Ben Bradshaw, John Healey.

women: [Harman in prior to election]. Yvette Cooper, Tessa Jowell, Rosie Winterton.

Are any current Shadow Cabinet members vulnerable?

Bob Ainsworth might well not have got on, as quite probably the MP in the last Cabinet with the lowest public and political profile. I have not heard if Shaun Woodward is planning to run again or not.

Most of the current Shadow Cabinet will probably get re-elected, but none will take it for granted. (Liam Byrne is reported by Michael Crick to have run the most extensive campaign in Labour party history - an impressive demonstration of his organising capacity, but perhaps also reflecting some nervousness that colleagues have been getting it in the neck over the Coalition ramping up his joke about the money running out).

Which new women are most likely to be elected?

With Harman already elected as deputy leader, and Yvette Cooper likely to poll very strongly, the Shadow Cabinet race looks potentially very open for women MPs beyond that.

Women ex-ministers in the shadow cabinet election will include Roberta Blackman-Woods, Caroline Flint, Mary Creagh, Maria Eagle and Angela Eagle, and Rosie Winterton: there are likely to be others to declare their candidacies.

{UPDATE: Barbara Keeley is also running; Fiona MacTaggart is expected to stand}.

Other ex-ministers standing for election

Among the men, the Guardian last week named Gerry Sutcliffe, John Healey, Vernon Coaker, Phil Woolas, Ivan Lewis, Paul Goggins, Chris Bryant, Gareth Thomas, Kevan Jones, Ian Lucas, Wayne David and Barry Gardiner as former middle-ranking and junior ministers who are all likely to stand. David Lammy, Huw Irranca-Davies and Kevin Brennan are also running.

It seems unlikely that more than two or three of this group will get elected.

Which backbenchers will do best?

It begins to look difficult to see many opportunities for backbenchers. Jon Cruddas may find the leadership election a nail-biting test of his King-making skills, but is likely to do well. Diane Abbott (with a run) could follow the leadership bid by broadening the shadow cabinet tent. Tom Harris has been winning blogosphere elections all summer - though whether or not this endears him to his Parliamentary colleagues remains to be seen.

How many of the class of 2010 will stand?

It seems fairly unlikely that a great many of Labour's 2010 intake will stand, though Stephen Twigg and Chris Leslie will do so, but are in a slightly unusual category as ex-ministers, now returning to Parliament.

New MPs did very well in largely dominating the Select Committee elections. That was partly because the class of 2010 voted for its own (most strongly on the Tory side). That is a dynamic less likely to operate in a Shadow Cabinet context - and new MPs may face some resistance from greybeards. However, it is possible that other new MPs - perhaps particularly women - could have a good shot. This blog would like to see Kate Green, newly elected in Stretford and Urmston, enter the lists, to seek to bring her expertise on inequality and poverty to the top table.

What do you think?

We would welcome any intelligence on who is up, who is down, and the best and most ludicrous canvassing arguments and techniques, and particularly your tips on who is likely to join the shadow cabinet, or current members who you think may miss out.

You can leave a comment, email Sunder on or phone us with your tips about the election.

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