The new shadow cabinet: who are they and what do they mean

Douglas Alexander (160 votes)

Reponsible for Gordon Brown’s election campaign and David Miliband’s leadership campaign, wee Douglas (as he used to be known when he was GB’s Parliamentary amanuensis in the early nineties) is not looking very lucky at the moment. But he got on the shadow cabinet without running much of a campaign and will expect a better job than he might otherwise have got, in token of the new leader’s magnanimity.

Ed Balls (179 votes)

Won the leadership campaign by a mile, but lost the election by a similar distance. It’s widely considered to be a toss-up between him and his wife, Yvette Cooper, for the shadow chancellorship, which he has made no secret of wanting. With David Miliband all but out of the picture, one could argue that the tone of Labour’s next five years will be set by what Ed M decides to do with Ed B in the next few days. And what Ed B decides to do back.

Hilary Benn (128 votes)

A minister for nine years, including seven in the cabinet, Hilary Benn is more experienced than he seems. It says a lot not just for his longevity, but for the way he colonised his two main briefs, that it’s hard to imagine him shadowing other than DEFRA or DECC.

Andy Burnham (165 votes)

Very well liked and quite well respected before the leadership campaign, Andy Burnham emerged even more popular but probably less highly esteemed. His campaign lacked ideological bite, but the man himself is a straight-down-the-line Blairite right-winger. As such, he will be an important pole in Ed Miliband’s big tent.

Liam Byrne (100 votes)

Hasn’t lived down the “no money left” note yet. But he will. Much younger than he looks (he turned 40 last weekend), he is an over-achiever with a Harvard MBA and fast-tracked ministerial career. Sees himself as a future leader. Took soundings this time over a possible Byrne bid, made the right choice on finding no real market. It’s not quite in his script that the new leader is the same age as him. Or that he had to work extremely hard to scrape onto the shad cab. But he did. Liam does not do failure. Which is why we need him.

Yvette Cooper (232 votes)

Tipped from the outset to top the poll, she’s also favourite to pip her husband to the post of shadow chancellor. A slow burn ministerial career (having been first elected in 1997 and had three children while an MP) saw her come to prominence as work and pensions secretary in the dying hours of the Brown government. One colleague this week described her as “just not quite so middle-class and preachy as Harriet and Tessa and all that generation”. Not that she is exactly Bessie Braddock.

Mary Creagh (119 votes)

Having been first elected in 2005, Mary Creagh is the only member of the new shadow cabinet not to have served in a government department. Fiercely ambitious, she speaks fluent Italian but doesn’t let on. In five years in Parliament she has never failed to cross a t or dot an i. And never stopped pressing on. That is why she is in the shadow cabinet. Her seat is in the same tight little clutch as Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, but she nominated David Miliband for the leadership. She will be a leading figure for the next twenty years.

John Denham (129 votes)

Along with Johnson, but a lot more surprisingly, was widely expected to be elected without running much of a campaign. Hard working, safe pair of hands, widely thought of as a thinker as well as a doer. Supported Ed Miliband and will expect a good job.

Angela Eagle (165 votes)

Has had an asymmetrical career. She was effective and respected on the public accounts committee after being unaccountably sacked as a minister by Blair. She was then part of the grassroots uprising in which sane lefties wrested control of the Parliamentary committee from the whips and turned it into a place for the PLP privately to voice its concerns to the leader. Which is what it was supposed to be all along. Then Brown put her back in government. Where she was a very good minister.

Maria Eagle (107 votes)

Less user-friendly (and commensurately less popular) than her twin sister. But was an earnestly effective minister for a long time and almost doubled her majority (over the notional) to nearly 17,000 at the general election. On both these crucial scores – how government works and how to campaign – she knows her way around.

Caroline Flint (139 votes)

Uber hard line ultra right winger, and proud of it. Rose to be minister for Europe, but was never happy under Brown and believed she should have been in the cabinet. Combative, competent and unashamedly ideological, it will be interesting to see how she fits into the new generation.

John Healey (192 votes)

Super-competent niceguy (sic, it’s a variation on wiseguy). Became increasingly frustrated that he wasn’t promoted to the real cabinet before the music stopped. Had a series of difficult, dense, senior ministerial jobs, which showed that he was a trusted and respected pair of hands. Even ended up attending cabinet. But never quite got pushed over the line to run his own department, which is what he really wanted. Ivan Lewis, with whom he ran on a mini-ticket for the shad cab, told everyone that John was a shoo-in. He wasn’t. But, as ever, he worked extremely hard, is basically a nice bloke, and when he finally made it, it was in spectacular fashion.

Meg Hillier (106 votes)

A former GLA member who only came into Parliament in 2005, Meg was fast-tracked into quite serious ministerial jobs. She did them well enough that nobody complained and the trajectory made her one of the obvious candidates for the shadow cabinet once the women quota was set. She backed her London neighbour, Diane Abbott, for the leadership, but is an instinctively leadership-loyal London centre-righter. She will have no difficulty accommodating the new generation. Nor is it likely to have any problem with her.

Alan Johnson (163 votes)

Apart from the leadership candidates, the only MP of whom it was generally held that he had earned the right to assume he would be elected to the shadow cabinet. Didn’t run a shad cab election campaign to speak of. Widely considered to be Labour’s best performer on every stage. The greatest leader we never had. And so on. Wildcard choice for shadow chancellor, but a fair bet to stay in the home office.

Tessa Jowell (152 votes)

Was the chair of social services on Camden council when Frank Dobson was leader in 1975. She has been an active political leader ever since. Jokes about the new generation are easy. What is remarkable is the sheer appetite, the insatiable, madferit lust for politics which you need to keep going for decade upon decade and still – at 63, after 13 straight years as a minister – keep coming back for more. Professional politics is a brutal business, and Tessa has had more than her fair share of knocks. Respect.

Sadiq Khan (128 votes)

The most talented member of the 2005 intake (which includes Ed Balls and Ed Miliband). A natural politician in all respects. Son of a London bus driver. Human. Normal. Charming. Clever. Relentless. Ruthless. Guileful. Almost cool. Having run Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, his place on the shadow cabinet was assumed. He will get a top job. His challenge is to do that job very well, become a household name, serve with utter loyalty, and replace Ed when his allotted political span concludes.

Ivan Lewis (104 votes)

Ran on a mini-ticket with John Healey. Was vindicated in his repeated assertion than John was a shoo-in. He wasn’t, but he was the revelation of the contest. Massively experienced as a minister over nine years in what seems like dozens of departments, Lewis seemed poised, when Brown took over, to make the leap to the edge of the cabinet. But it all went wrong in several ways, some personal, some political. He hung on, though, when many thought he wouldn’t. And now he comes to glory. Cleverer and cannier than he seems, and younger than you would ever imagine, he is one of the few for whom the spectrum of possibility is wide: he could go from strength to strength, or he could crash and burn.

Anne McKechin (117 votes)

A softly-mannered Glaswegian socialist, Anne Mckechin made her bones as a development specialist, but got her ministerial experience under Jim Murphy at the Scottish office. She is in the best Labour traditions: kind, sincere, decent and fair. First elected in 2001, she will now take her place as the leading Scottish woman in the new generation PLP.

Jim Murphy (160 votes)

A tall, rangy, taciturn teetotaler with a big daft grin, Jim Murphy is an ideologue. His politics are old school old right. Which means he’s usually labeled “a Blairite”, but actually puts him in a straight line of Labour pragmatism which stretches from Herbert Morrison, through Gaitskell and Healey to Mandelson and Blair. As David Miliband’s campaign manager, Ed will need to give him a decent job. How he settles into it will be a test of how capacious is the new generation tent.

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10 Responses to “The new shadow cabinet: who are they and what do they mean”

  1. antigone says:

    Absolutely astonishing to omit Pat McFadden.
    Can anyone explain?

  2. Trish says:

    Brilliant! spot on… but what happened to Peter Hain???? what a shock.

  3. ZED23 says:

    What a shower. you’re fcucked.

  4. Steve says:

    a conciliatory message for the man who has coined many a good expression to fit the public mood, Pat McFadden, “don’t let the door hit you on the arse on your way out….”

  5. Not too bad for my preferences. Burnham, Jowell, Murphy, Flint and Johnson were likely to make it anyway, and only the last two of them are pig-headed enough to kick up a stink when we need to ditch an unpopular policy they happen to be wedded to.

    And it’s great to see John Healey do so well.

  6. Skiamakhos says:

    Weren’t these all Gordon Brown’s people? What’s the point of saying there’s a new generation in charge & then fielding the old generation as your shadow cabinet? If we vote for these guys, is there any reason at all to suggest that they won’t pursue Blairite policies, taking our civil liberties, getting us into stupid wars not of our making, and inventing thousands of new criminal offences so that we’re all walking on eggshells in fear of getting a criminal record?

    I was so close to voting Labour again… C’mon Ed, where’s this new generation you promised?

  7. James Jacobs says:

    Where are the welsh? Without Hain, there aren’t any welsh MPs in shad cabinet, unless EM co-opts David Hanson say. I would have thought Kevin Brennan might have squeaked in, but alas no.

  8. terry pearce says:

    A Shadow Cabinet that wiill offer no real resistanc to the CON DEM cuts, their only difference to the Government is the time scale of the cuts. If they had not now been working for the Tories, Hutton, Field and Milburn would been given some sort of job in the Shadow Government. Those of us fightiong the cuts are on our own, this crowd will be a `responsible` opposition, in other words insffective.

  9. dan says:

    A new generation for change with the same old failures back in place.
    Good stuff. Youll be out of power for 20 years with that lot.

  10. Robert says:

    They made most of the Tory cuts for god sake, the welfare reforms are all labours, shit who cares anymore.

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