WillKat wedding trumped: Murphy shocks Alexander to take league lead

by Atul Hatwal

Royal wedding? What royal wedding? The big news today is that the shadow cabinet work-rate league has a new leader. For the first time since this shadow cabinet was formed, Douglas Alexander has been knocked-off top spot.

The new leader is Jim Murphy who has sustained an amazing work-rate to surge past Alexander.

In a month with limited Parliamentary activity because of recess, Murphy still managed to land yet another urgent question – the third in seven weeks. And outside of Parliament, on the media front, while Alexander posted a respectable two releases, Murphy churned out nine.

It’s not clear where William and Kate’s personal allegiances lie in this defining contest but these dramatic developments are likely to be the talk of the wedding banquet.

It is understood that royal insiders had been concerned for weeks that Murphy moving into the lead would knock the wedding off the nation’s front pages and captivate the public’s attention.

Discreet moves were made in the past few days to urge William Hague, Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley to bring forward major departmental announcements. Their track record with large-scale policy initiatives meant they were viewed as offering the best chance of boosting Murphy’s competitors.

But these overtures went unanswered, leaving Murphy a clear run. In the past 10 days alone he was able to fire off three press releases exposing new gaffes and errors from Liam Fox’s ministry of defence.

As of late last night, the royal press office was maintaining a distinctive stiff upper lip in the face of what has been dubbed “M-Day” by refusing to comment on “internal party political matters”.

Below the royal radar, underneath the top two, the month has been one of apparent consolidation in the league. Over half of the shadow cabinet remained in the same position as the previous month.

But looking past the rankings, shifts in individual points totals highlight areas where change could be on the way.

In the top five, John Healey’s machine has moved up a gear as he issued nine releases on the government’s faltering health reforms. He has pulled decisively ahead of Ed Balls in sixth, having previously been just one point ahead, to close the gap on Angela Eagle in fourth. As the shadow cabinet member leading Labour’s flagship campaign, Healey is likely to continue his current progress and pressure those above him in the coming months.

In the middle of the table, Maria Eagle posted an extraordinary score of 51 in the last month to move up two places to eighth and comes within touching distance of Yvette Cooper in seventh.

Her rise was based on the responses to a tranche of Parliamentary questions finally coming through. They quantify the cost of government use of official cars compared to ministers’ and civil servants’ use of public transport.

Fortunately for the embattled royal PR team, already under pressure with Murphy’s rise, these questions didn’t extend to looking at the levels of use for the regal oyster card or the Windsor family saver season tickets. And any questions on the transport chaos across London to be caused by the WillKat wedding were strictly off limits.

It’s an impressive one month tally for Eagle, but she will need to convert the PQs into press stories to reap the full rewards of her hard work.

At the lower end of the table, Tessa Jowell continues her recent renaissance, pulling clear of the bottom three and closing on Ivan Lewis in sixteenth. Lewis’s recent performance has been anaemic, posting single-digit scores in two of the past three months. Jowell will move past him next month if both continue on their current trajectory.

The one area where there is an increasingly familiar scene is at the bottom of the table. Hain, Hillier and Woodward prop up the league, same as last month, falling further behind in April.

Peter Hain managed a solitary press release and Shaun Woodward graced the Commons with a rare speech. Hardly a stellar performance, but infinitely better (literally) than Meg Hillier.

In Parliamentary and media terms, Hillier was comatose in April. Not a single written Parliamentary question, intervention in the chamber or press release. She might as well have had the month off.

Maybe she did.

As the nation pauses from the royal festivities to take in the full implications of changes at the top of the league, royal spin doctors will be regretting that Murphy didn’t have a drop of the same political bromide as Hillier in his tea.

Atul Hatwal is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

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2 Responses to “WillKat wedding trumped: Murphy shocks Alexander to take league lead”

  1. AmberStar says:

    Does Ed B not get bonus points for discombobulating David Cameron to the point where DC dubbed Ed ‘the most annoying person in politics’?

  2. iain ker says:

    Does Ed B not get bonus points for discombobulating David Cameron to the point where DC dubbed Ed ‘the most annoying person in politics’?


    Yeah, because that’s just sooooo important isn’t it.

    Sweet Jesus, is that the best you can do.

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