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.
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.