Wednesday News Review

First meeting for generation Ed

Ed Miliband has geared up for his first face-to-face clash with David Cameron since he was elected Labour leader by meeting his Shadow Cabinet for the first time. The Opposition leader will face intense scrutiny when he takes on the Tory leader at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons later today. The showdown will be seen as a key test of his abilities, after he narrowly won victory ahead of his brother David last month. Yesterday’s meeting of his front-bench team was the first since their appointments on Friday. In just over a week’s time they will spearhead the Opposition response to the Government’s swingeing public spending cuts. In a sign of the crucial role he will play, Alan Johnson, a surprise choice as Shadow Chancellor, sat opposite the new leader. – The Herald

So the shadow cabinet election winners are mastering their briefs. But spare a thought for those who saw hopes and dreams go up in smoke. In Scotland activists ran a tight operation. Ann McKechin wanted to be shadow Scottish secretary, and that’s what she got. But in Wales things became a little more complex. Distinguished as he has been, supporters of Peter Hain thought it was time he moved on to something more challenging than the Welsh secretary brief – again – and thus all sorts of other Welsh MPs were encouraged to stand. Ideally, there would be someone else to take the Welsh portfolio, leaving Hain free to take another plum brief. But it didn’t work out that way. So many stood – Chris Bryant, Huw Irranca-Davies, Ian Lucas, Wayne David, David Hanson and Kevin Brennan – that none made the shadow cabinet. Hain has been co-opted back as shadow Welsh secretary. Best-laid plans. Oh well. – The Guardian

ED Miliband’s top team met for the first time as his surprise pick for Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson sparred for the first time with opposite number George Osborne. The nine-strong “Yorkshire mafia” were among those taking their seats at the Shadow Cabinet table yesterday as Mr Miliband addressed his team ahead of today’s first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since becoming leader. – The Yorkshire Post

So Ed Miliband told the Parliamentary Labour Party that he and they need to show humility. He is right, but this is easy to say and much, much harder to do. We shall see whether he has managed it at the despatch box tomorrow when the tackles David Cameron at his first PMQs. The feeling power gives politicians seeps into their bones and they get used to the trappings of deference. Ed Miliband has been close to significant power for most of his adult life, as have many of the people around him. They need to realise that for a while – about 18 months probably – no one will be seriously interested in what Ed Miliband’s vast new team of shadow ministers has to say. The lobbyists have long gone and soon the hacks, once so sycophantic, will start postponing lunches. – The Spectator

Ed faces first PMQs

Ed Miliband is to face his first key test as Labour leader when he comes up against David Cameron at prime minister’s questions. The 40-year-old, who beat his brother David to his party’s leadership, is expected to focus his questions on the coalition’s plans for the economy. The Commons clash comes a week ahead of the spending review, when the government’s cuts will be revealed. – The BBC

Vince pulls u-turn hits the gas

New politics, lesson 52. U-turns don’t exist any more, or if they do there is no shame in them. Vince responded urbanely to the indignation of New Generation MPs: “Roads to Westminster are covered with the skidmarks of politicians changing direction.” (Ribald laughter.) The Lib-Dems might have signed in blood their opposition to raising tuition fees, but now they can wave it away with the nonchalance of The Jew of Malta. “Thou hast committed fornication. But it was in another country, and besides the wench is dead.” It’s an entirely new game, and Labour hasn’t decided how to play it. A direction change of this magnitude would have caused a parliamentary riot a couple of years ago. They couldn’t muster a street corner argument. “The current economic climate” is one get-out. “The compromises demanded by coalition” is another. The fact the Labour party campaigned on no tuition fees before introducing them is a third. All we can do is enjoy the ride. – The Independent

Polished performance needs policy

This jolly masque hid an insubstantial performance. Johnson latched on to Chris Huhne’s vow that he would not be ‘lashed to the mast‘ of needless spending cuts – Johnson wondered if the deficit might not be eradicated within one parliament. Osborne said that it would. Then Johnson repeated the substance of his attacks of the weekend. The government lacks a growth strategy, he said, and then argued that it is suicide to cut before private sector recovery was established; we were moments away from the promise of a double-dip. Chris Leslie, a Labour Treasury shadow, made the exact same points in a later exchange. It was as if Johnson, and Labour, was living off the memory of conversations he witnessed between Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. Labour’s criticism of the government’s poorly articulated growth strategy is legitimate – Osborne’s bleating about ‘tough choices’ and ‘Labour’s fault’ is not illuminating. But that’s all Labour has. The opposition has a week to develop a credible alternative to the government’s economic policy because that twinkle will soon lose its sheen. – The Spectator

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