Toil and trouble bubbling in the shadow cabinet pot

In the past week, lefty pointy-heads have been all a-twitter about a piece on the Economist’s blog, mapping out how Ed Miliband might want to clip the Treasury’s wings and expand BIS, so that BIS becomes an engine for “economic reform”.

This new “department for Milibandism” would take on responsibility for jobcentres from DWP, training from Education, cities and regional growth from CLG and financial services from the Treasury. The poor old Treasury would be left as a much diminished office of the budget.

Cue supportive interventions from noted Ed-ites and much sage discussion about the policy and institutional impact. But as the wonkathon subsides, thoughts turn to the politics of such a change and the eternal question, cui bono?

The stony silence from the shadow chancellor’s camp speaks volumes. Ed Balls would effectively be demoted to the role of chief secretary to the Treasury. Suffice to say, he’s unlikely to be a fan. No, the lucky beneficiary from this radical Whitehall surgery would appear be Chuka, the current shadow at BIS.

So who lobbed this political incendiary into the debate? Step forward the uncredited author of the piece, Jeremy Cliffe.

Would that be the same Jeremy Cliffe who is good mates with one, er, Chuka Umunna? The same Jeremy whose Linked-In CV lists a past role as “Campaign Intern, Streatham Labour, December 2009-January 2010.” The same Jeremy whose CV goes on to list one of his jobs as “Researcher, Office of Chuka Umunna, June 2010-August 2010”?

Hmm. Stop it. You’re too suspicious, Uncut is sure this is all just a big coincidence.

In other coincidental news, la Umunna penned a piece for last week’s Observer on democratic renewal; nothing to do with industrial strategy and completely out of the blue, but nevertheless a worthy subject for a political intervention. It brought to mind a comment from a grizzled whip a few years ago, speaking about loyalty from the then cabinet, “When the children start talking off-topic, discipline is breaking down and trouble’s not far behind.”

In fairness to Chuka, at least he was scrupulously on message in his Observer piece. Rumours from the PLP abound that the really big fight of the coming term is about to kick-off: Balls versus Burnham with loyalty to the collective shadow cabinet line likely to be the first casualty.

Who can forget Andy Burnham’s own spectacular off-topic foray in his tent pole interview with the Guardian last summer. He sashayed across the Treasury brief, calling for his plans for whole person care to be fully funded while aiming a few elegant kicks at Labour’s campaign strategy saying voters’ weren’t “convinced yet that Labour had the answers,” that “time was running out,” and that the party needed to “shout louder.”

Well, battle is about to be re-joined. With detailed spending discussions due to get under way between team Balls and each member of the shadow cabinet, the rumble over whole person care is back on. Wags suggest that we might soon start seeing op-eds from the shadow health secretary setting out the wider economic stimulus benefits of whole person care and its central role in securing a Labour victory in 2015.

This particular clash will have an added piquancy because Burnham is clearly positioning himself as a heavyweight leadership contender should Labour lose the next election, in which his main rival would be, ah yes, Mrs Balls, Yvette Cooper.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be an interesting few months for the shadow cabinet.

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9 Responses to “Toil and trouble bubbling in the shadow cabinet pot”

  1. swatantra says:

    An upgraded BIZ makes sence to me. We need a 5 Year National Plan setting out the economic landscape, well for the next 5 years, and the next 5 Years beyond that, whilst the Treasury deal with just the mundane matters of collecting in Revenue and then spending it. Its going back to the Grand Designs of the Wilson Era, but this time with a more responsible politican in charge than George Brown.

  2. eric clyne says:

    Ed Miliband is trying to bring raise the role of government in wealth creation. His plans for bringing a more prominent role to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills is a good one.

    We need to make Wealth Creation a central issue for the coming election. Miliband is doing well.

  3. Madasafish says:

    Since when has any Government Created wealth?

    They spend it, waste it, but create it?

    Wealth is created by nasty people who are single minded about profit. Profit appears a nasty word as the Leader of the Opposition is on record objecting to companies making a paltry 5% pre tax profit on turnover.

    Wealth creation means – for a Government – making an environment where people are incentivised to take risk and work hard to achieve something. In order to build a business and become rich.

    This from an Opposition who are determined to tax the rich more?

    The unconscious lack of self awareness is quite telling.

  4. Fallacy man says:


    The idea that only the private sector creates wealth is wrong. Specifically, it’s a nice example of the fallacy of equivocation.

    When people talk about wealth in a political sense, National Wealth, they generally mean national output: GDP. Doctors, nurses and postmen create GDP just as surely as entrepreneurs, hairdressers or lawyers.

    The sort of wealth the public sector generally doesn’t create is opulence, wealth in the sense of “Richard Branson is very wealthy” – a large pile of money belonging to one person. Or at least it generally doesn’t in non-corrupt developed countries.

    So to the extent we care about wealth in political debate, the public sector can be a “wealth-creator” too.

  5. southern voter says:

    The shadow business secretary should think how he can grow the private sector
    to become a bigger part of our economy.This is the way to increase tax revenue
    and fund our public services.

  6. Madasafish says:

    Fallacy Man
    Who pays the wages of the Public Sector? The Private sector.
    What services does the Public Sector export to pay for our food and oil imports? None.

    The Public Sector does not create wealth. By definition it cannot as it relies on taxes- wealth destruction – to pay for itself.

  7. Danny says:

    The wisest action the author implemented with this article was not putting their name to it.

  8. syzygy says:


    So where does the private sector get their money to pay the public sector?

    Government has to spend in order for there to be money circulating in the economy. Taxes are the end product of that circulation. They are not needed to pay for the public sector. Taxes are not the equivalent of an income for the UK. Sovereign governments can generate as much currency as needed to match the potential capacity of the wealth producers who are the workers, be they public or private sector.

    Furthermore, Exports do not pay for our food and oil imports… Government pays public sector workers who spend their income on food etc which become wages for other workers who spend their income which becomes wages for more workers and so on. Eventually, all government spending ends up as tax or gilts.

    At the moment, we have high unemployment/underemployment and businesses are sitting on £800bn that they are not investing because of lack of demand. We need gov’t to spend in order to create more jobs and get the ball rolling.

  9. Mike Stallard says:

    There is a massive challenge which nobody is facing up to at the moment.
    Yes yes I know.
    It is the coming referendum.
    I am for LEAVE, and I note that the figures on Political Betting are slowly rising for REMAIN. We have no leader at all – except for the “toxic” Nigel Farage who, alone, is going round the country speaking very well indeed, but only to the already converted. He has more or less been banned from TV now.
    The Labour movement simply has not bothered with the EU. Apart from mouthing a few platitudes about social justice (from them???!!!???) and TTIP (which will never happen).
    IF someone like Chuka Umunna could be bothered to take up the banner with passion and skill, a lot of demoralised and leaderless people would form up behind him.
    At the moment nobody in the Labour movement has done their homework – and it shows.

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