New league table of shadow cabinet “work rate”

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut analysis shows Alexander, Healey, Balls and Murphy lead way in holding government to account

Douglas Alexander, John Healey, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy are the shadow cabinet’s leading campaigners in and out of Parliament, according to a new analysis of the “work rate” of Ed Miliband’s top team.

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At the top of the table, Douglas Alexander has conducted a forensic examination of Iain Duncan Smith’s department for work and pensions, putting down 89 written Parliamentary questions that have helped provide the material for 26 press releases.

In second place, John Healey posts a strong all round performance, shining a spotlight on the government’s health service reforms with 65 Parliamentary questions, 27 questions or speeches in the chamber and 18 press statements. With fewer staff than Alexander, it will be interesting to see how Healey gets on when he has a full team in place.

Ed Balls, in a competitive third place, has landed the biggest hits at the despatch box. He has twice successfully used an emergency procedure called an ”urgent question”, granted at the discretion of the Speaker, to drag home office ministers back to the House of Commons and force them to explain themselves.

And Jim Murphy has made an impressive start with the delicate and difficult defence brief. His efforts to encourage more ex-service men and women to join the Labour benches may see immediate success with former soldier Dan Jarvis making the shortlist for Barnsley Central.

While the ranking partially reflects the prominence of the department, even in departments that are not in the thick of the legislative action, quick Parliamentary footwork has made a difference.  As shadow foreign secretary, Yvette Cooper was first off the mark reacting to events in Tunisia, scoring a hit with an “urgent question” and then following up with a press statement.

At the other end of the table, the results will make for uncomfortable reading for some shadow cabinet young bloods as well as old hands.

In the wake of the mini-shuffle caused by Alan Johnson’s resignation, last week Ed Miliband set out his expectation of his team:

“I am proud that Labour has a strong, confident shadow cabinet that will expose the mistakes of this Conservative-led government.”

But the league table reveals that over half the shadow cabinet – thirteen members – have not proactively generated a single press story since they were appointed. Six haven’t issued any form of press comment or statement at all and three haven’t even put down a single written parliamentary question.

The league was compiled by awarding points for the numbers of parliamentary written questions, oral questions and speeches as well as press releases and outside speeches. Scoring was weighted towards high impact activities.

For example, securing an “urgent question” in the House of Commons is worth ten points, compared to one point for a normal oral question. The source for information on activity in Parliament was Hansard and for activity out of Parliament it was the Labour party website.

Uncut will be updating and publishing the table each month, tracking the efforts of the shadow cabinet in holding the government to account.

Any spinners or shadow cabinet members who want to keep us updated of their activity should drop Uncut a line.

Atul Hatwal’s reflections on his first Uncut league table will appear in his column tomorrow.


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16 Responses to “New league table of shadow cabinet “work rate””

  1. This is a really good idea.

  2. David says:

    Could you tell us your reasoning for awarding asking an urgent question in the house ten points? Thats two and a half times the amount of points you award for a proactivly generated media story, do you really think it is worth twice as much in opposing ConDem policy?

  3. David says:

    *proactively

  4. Alex Sobel says:

    Where’s Harriet Harman – ID is an important brief

  5. William Campbell says:

    And that’s not how one spells Khan…which is the least that’s wrong with this league table.

  6. Atul Hatwal says:

    David – the urgent question gets such a bonus because it is independently awarded by the speaker. Its an implicit rebuke to the government for not being sufficiently accountable, the question itself generates a larger debate on the issue than a normal oral PQ and having to come back to the despatch box is exactly the sort of thing government ministers (of all stripes) dislike

    Alex – Harriet was not in the table for two reasons – (i) as deputy leader, in effect she has three jobs; deputising for EM, shadowing Nick Clegg and shadowing int dev. To have her in wouldn’t quite be a fair comparison with the others who only have one focus in the chamber. (ii) she is not part of the annual shadow cabinet election process

    Atul

  7. MG says:

    Well done. This is brilliant idea.

  8. David says:

    I think it shows an admirably thorough approach that you have awarded a bonus for urgent questions as compared to normal PQS. However, I don’t think I quite made clear what I mean by my earlier comment, which was more of a question, not whether an urgent question was more important than a normal one, but whether it was more important than a proactivly generated press story, which may reach more people and ultimatedly help Labour at the polls.

    Additionally, being independently awarded by the speaker may merely be an indication of the Speakers dislike for certain Government ministers, or a particular penchent among some Government Ministers for brieifing outside of parliament and needing to be called into account into the House.

    Great resource though!

  9. David says:

    This is complete crap for two principal reasons:

    1. Shadow Cabinet members are limited to what they can say in the chamber – if the Government haven’t brought forward any business relating to portfolio, there is no scope for anything other than monthly question time – so it more a reflection on the Government Ministers they are shadowing than them.

    2. Your media coverage doesn’t take into account Welsh, Scots and NI press – yet you are including all three Secretaries of State – when was the last time a Scotland Office story was covered by the Times? Neither does it take into account national media coverage of shadow cabinet members not relating to their portfolio – e.g. Peter Hain does loads of Newsnight, Today etc. if you were to measure media coverage on Google news alerts he would be in the top half – not bottom.

  10. Disillusioned says:

    Well David, despite all that, Ann McKechin doesn’t seem to have been doing too badly. A regional brief and still 71 questions.

  11. Tom says:

    Re: “David says: January 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm”

    I suspect “David” is David Taylor, Special Adviser to Peter Hain MP. The Poor guy is probably humiliated beyond belief by his boss’ position.

    I mean, look at the stats here – 1 written question to Cheryl Gillan since May last year?

    Doesn’t bode well for those Shadow Cabinet elections in 2012 for Mr Hain, this! He’s firmly grounded in the relegation zone – with a real risk of being relegated to the backbenches by the looks of things!

  12. John says:

    Disillusioned: that is because of the Scotland Bill

  13. Jon says:

    There are obvious limitations to any league table. These measures are partial and over time (if some shadow cabinet members take it seriously) will become less useful. However, it is still a very useful piece of analysis provided it is interpreted carefully, taking into account the nature of each members portfolio. Obviously Liam Byrne and Peter Hain, for example, given the nature of their functions in the period of analysis, would not be expected to score highly on these measures. The point about regional (i.e. sub-UK) media is also right.

    There are, however, some outstanding under-performers.

    Perhaps Labour Uncut could ask Mary Creagh and Meg Hillier for an account of their achievements to date?

  14. James says:

    …minus a good 140 points for nonexistent weighting of portfolios and issues covered?
    weighting of size of depts?
    weighting of dept activity?
    weighting of resources?
    weighting of media interest?

    and then, minus a good pff.. 182 points? ..for the dunce-like realpolitik of anyone who was involved in wasting Labour time concocting a spurious and flawed “better than you” table in the first place, of course…

  15. Bryn Hackley says:

    Jon you are right someone should ask both Mary Creagh and especially mehg Hiller what they have been up to since the shadow cabinet election, as last week anoucement on forstry was the first time i had seen her.

    I also question caroline flint position in the table as it seems to be eric pickles has got away with to much for two long

  16. JamesJ says:

    Nice idea, and useful data, but no weighting for quality. Sadiq Khan, for example, seems unable to open his mouth without spouting something designed to appeal to the most base instincts of the Daily Mail reader. I’d rather he said nothing. There’s more to opposition than simply taking a contrary approach and repeating it to anyone who’ll listen.

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