The shadow cabinet league: Sadiq takes an early lead

by Alan Smithee

Rebooting a franchise is always a tricky task; for every Batman Begins, there is a Phantom Menace or Superman Returns. This reboot is rather cheaper and less sexy than your average Hollywood blockbuster, having been calculated on open-source software. As it is the first month back, it is hard to draw major conclusions from such a small data of pool. However, there are data points that bear discussing.

Shadow cabinet work rate table - November 2013

Shadow cabinet work rate table – November 2013

Storming into a surprise lead is Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary. Much of his media comment and written answers that underpinned his high score have been under-the-radar. He has constantly hammered away at the DoJ on prisons, focussing on rising costs and issues with places. His mayoral ambition seems to be drifting, but he has mastered the skills of opposition and could well turn up a political gem with his relentless digging.

Doing an excellent impersonation of Southampton is shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie. Leslie impressed when standing in for Rachel Reeves during her maternity leave and deservedly got promoted in the reshuffle. His high placing is due to the large amount of written questions submitted, forensically targeting different areas of fiscal and economic policy. He also does a lot of the heavy-lifting in terms of media work within the shadow Treasury team.

Sitting comfortable in the Champions League places are Chuka Umunna and Andy Burnham. They have taken contrasting roads this month; Umunna has focussed heavily on written question whilst Burnham put out thirteen separate releases on the NHS and secured an urgent question in parliament. This was helped by important figures release and the Francis Report being published, but Burnham is skilled enough to exploit the opportunities presented. No wonder the Tories and element of the media are gunning so hard for him.

A little further down lie Caroline Flint and Yvette Cooper who, in media activity, have had a solid month. Yvette’s relatively anaemic general Parliamentary activity was offset by an important Urgent Question on the lifting of EU controls on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria. If they are consistent in their levels of activity, they will help land many blows on the Government. Some of Caroline’s thunder is naturally stolen by Ed as the price freeze is his flagship policy, yet she still manages to perform better than most of her colleagues.

In the top half, but not exactly challenging for top four, are Douglas Alexander, Vernon Coaker, Jim Murphy, Tristram Hunt and Rachel Reeves. Hunt and Murphy were heavy on written questions but did far less media work than Coaker, Alexander or Reeves. Coaker and Alexander were purely reactive in their media work, to stories such as the Iran Nuclear  Deal and the ending of shipbuilding in Portsmouth. Reeves, however, was able to generate two stories, better than any of her fellow frontbenchers. If Hunt and Murphy can get more media work done and the other three generate more parliamentary questions, then they could easily rise up the table.

Michael Dugher, Maria Eagle and Gloria De Piero can be found in the teens. Dugher, known to be a skilled operator, has generate a good amount of media activity and continued his scrutiny of government activity. De Piero fronted up a debate on women and the cost of living, whilst Eagle was steady on water bills and regulation. All have done ok, but there is certainly roomed for improved, especially on written questions.

Performing surprisingly better than his fellow regional shadows is Ivan Lewis. Managing to proactively generate a story on Northern Ireland so early into his tenure in a generally reactive field deserves to be lauded.

Lower than some would expect, is shadow chancellor Ed Balls asking a single oral question, giving two speeches and putting out two press releases. Regardless of his relatively light media and parliamentary activity, Balls is a canny operator and skilled at getting up the skin of the Tories. The next few months, with the Autumn Statement, the Adonis Growth Review and the Budget should provide an opportunity for him to hammer Osborne over the problems of a narrow-based recovery and cost of living.

Seven cabinet members sit in the relegation zone, all in single figures. Deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has a low rate of Parliamentary and media activity for such an experienced and senior politician. As the only member of Blair’s last shadow cabinet still on the frontbench, she should be doing much better and giving a lead to her younger colleagues.

Angela Eagle is placed low in the table. Shadow Leader of the House is a role where parliamentary and media activity is generally limited and mainly reaction. However, there must be some way for Ms Eagle to cause Andrew Lansley political pain.

Margaret Curran and Owen Smith can be excused to some extent as the roles they shadow are rather limited post-devolution. However, there are still major questions about devolution in Wales and the Scottish Independence referendum that suggest more could be done at a Westminster level.

God only knows what Jon Trickett is doing; it certainly isn’t anything in parliament or in the media. Part of his role is acting as Ed’s point man on internal Party reforms but that shouldn’t preclude harrying the government.

As noted above, this is the first set of results of the revamped table. It will take a number of  months to establish real trends. However, those languishing at the bottom of table should up their game, for their own good and the good of the party.

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4 Responses to “The shadow cabinet league: Sadiq takes an early lead”

  1. John Ruddy says:

    What media are you covering for the “outside parliament” stuff?

    i would suggest that you include the regional media for the Shadow Welsh and Scottish posts – certainly Margaret Curran has been more active there (rightly so) than your table would suggest.

  2. swatantra says:

    Excellent analysis. HH has had her day, and should make way for a younger person, as todays poor performance at DPM’s showed. Glad to see that Sadiq is having 2nd thoughts about running for Mayor; he should give his backing to Diane Abbott.

  3. southern voter says:

    Ed Balls as shadow chancellor should be doing much better both in parliament
    and in the media.He holds a very important shadow post and he must use this to attack the government’s policies and promote labour as a possible party of government more effectively.

  4. Not Tribal says:

    “His mayoral ambition seems to be drifting”. Good because with him as candidate Labour won’t win.

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