The new generation front bench: Ed pays his debts

Where better to seek clues about Ed Miliband’s new generation politics than Ed Miliband’s new generation of Labour MPs?

A quick look at how they voted in the leadership election and what has happened to them in the fortnight since is instructive.

A scan of the voting list reveals 29 new MPs first preferencing David, against 23 supporting his brother. Already, this is interesting. It shows that new MPs were disproportionately more likely to first preference Ed than was the PLP as a whole. Suggesting that perhaps he really is a leader for the new generation.

(New MPs were more likely to first preference both Milibands than was the PLP as a whole, but the difference was more pronounced for Ed, whom 4.7% more new MPs supported than did the PLP as a whole, compared to 3.3% for David).

Certainly, the politics of many of the more talented new generation Milibandistas do not appear to square with the compass-lite new tribunism that Ed has been preaching. The likes of Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Michael Dugher are straight out of the New Labour/old right tradition. Ed should not have been their natural choice.

Some (Reeves and Reynolds) came out strong and early for Ed. Others (Dugher) came over very late, but decisively. So why?

New generation enthusiasm was doubtless part of the package. But David’s personality also played a part. Politically, he was the natural choice. But on a human level, many people who should have done were simply not prepared to vote for him.

This extends to a general sense that, for all but the very best and the very brightest, there was not likely to be much patronage-mileage in David. You could back him to the hilt, campaigning night and day, but, for two reasons, you would be unlikely to get much in return.

First, on a personal level, David would not notice. Colleague-relationships are not his forte and he would have likely proved unmindful of the smaller cogs that made his great wheel turn. Second, everyone else seemed to be supporting him anyway, including all the big battalions. Your relatively humble new intake contribution would be lost amid the mega-campaign with the armies of paid staff and squadrons of famous names.

Not that supporting Ed can be labelled careerist. The reverse is true. Until the very end, most people thought he would lose. But there was a sense among his supporters – which didn’t apply to any other candidate – that they were a new group coming together in a new way for a new thing. Crucially, it seemed like a thing that would endure beyond a defeat. Even if they didn’t really know what the thing was. This is what we mean when we say that Ed inspired people.

In the end, though, things worked out well for the young vanguardists. Of the larger number of new intakers who backed David, seven are now on the front bench. Whereas of the smaller number who backed Ed, 14 have been blessed with advancement. In other words, well over half of his new intake supporters have had super-rapid promotion.

This is heartening. It shows that Ed is not taking the new politics too seriously. His first act is to look after the people who backed him. Privately – in the face of some opposition from advisers – he has been firm, explicit and unapologetic about this. Which may be old politics. But it is actual politics. Real politics.

And it points us to the paradox of Ed Miliband. A policy wonk who presents as a dreamer, one might expect him to be philosophically forensic, but fuzzy when it comes to realpolitik. In fact, he is ideologically naïve, but politically ruthless.

The most surprising Davidista left out of Ed’s new team is Stella Creasy. Others who would probably have been given a shot had the older Miliband won include Tristram Hunt and Anas Sarwar, gilded young princelings the pair, though of startlingly different stripe.

Their turn will come, all three. But they must now wait in line and reflect on the first big mistake of their careers. It was an easy mistake to make, an understandable one, but a mistake.

And, for a while, they will suffer the most exquisite punishment that can be visited upon a politician. In the famous line of Gore Vidal’s which is etched in hurt on the walls of the members’ tea room: “every time a friend succeeds, a little bit of me dies”.

Their friends and enemies who voted for the suckers’ choice are passing them already. The pain is immense.

New MPs first preferencing David Miliband

*asterisk denotes included in the new shadow ministerial team

*Rushnara Ali – Bethnal Green and Bow
Jennifer Chapman – Darlington
Stella Creasey – Walthamstow
Alex Cunningham – Stockton North
Nick Dakin – Scunthorpe
Simon Danczuk – Rochdale
*Gloria de Piero – Ashfield
*Gemma Doyle – West Dunbartonshire
Julie Elliott – Sunderland Central
Sheila Gilmore – Edinburgh east
Pat Glass – North West Durham
Mary Glindon – North Tyneside
Tristram Hunt – Stoke on Trent Central
*Liz Kendall – Leicester West
Michael McCann – East Kilbride, Strathavan and Lesmahagow
Greg McClymont – Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
Alison McGovern – Wirral South
Ian Mearns – Gateshead
Ian Murray – Edinburgh South
Pamela Nash – Airdrie and Shots
Fiona O’Donnell – East Lothian
*Toby Perkins – Chesterfield
Bridget Phillipson – Houghton and Sunderland South
Yasmin Qureshi – Bolton South East
*Jonny Reynolds – Stalybridge and Hyde
Anas Sarwar – Glasgow central
Nick Smith – Blaenau Gwent
Valerie Vaz – Walsall South
*John Woodcock – Barrow and Furness

New MPs first preferencing Ed Miliband

*Luciana Berger – Liverpool Wavertree
Paul Blomfield – Sheffield Central
*Margaret Curran – Glasgow East
*Jack Dromey – Birmingham Erdington
Bill Esterson – Sefton Central
*Tom Greatrex – Rutherglen and Hamilton West
*Lillian Greenwood – Nottingham South
Cathy Jamieson – Kilmarnock and Loudon
*Graham Jones – Hyndburn
Susan Jones – Clwyd South
Ian Lavery – Wansbeck
*Shabana Mahmood – Birmingham Ladywood
*Catherine McKinnell – Newcastle upon Tyne North
Graeme Morrice – Livingstone
Grahame Morris – Easington
Lisa Nandy – Wigan
*Chi Onwurah – Newcastle upon Tyne Central
*Rachel Reeves – Leeds West
*Emma Reynolds – Wolverhampton North East
Gavin Shuker – Luton South
*Owen Smith – Pontypridd
*Chuka Umunna – Sreatham
*Christoper Williamson – Derby North

New MPs second preferencing Ed Miliband (with David not first)

*Michael Dugher – Barnsley East
Kate Green – Stretford and Urmston
Teresa Pearce – Erith and Thamesmead
Steve Rotherham – Liverpool Walton

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4 Responses to “The new generation front bench: Ed pays his debts”

  1. Hopi Sen says:

    Interesting piece, but isn’t catherine Mckinnell shad solicitor general?

    Also, think you neglect role of key non-politician, non-wonk players in EM campaign team – like Lucy Powell and Anna yearley who were much more effective at building relations with new MPs. They were much better at reaching-out. Which bodes well for PLP management (and as some key people in EM team have PLP/No 10 political office exp, think they know it’s important to keep doing it)

    Also wouldn’t be surprised if some talented people had suggested that as ahhh… late selections, they should spend a year or so building local links…

  2. Editor says:

    @ Hopi Sen

    Well spotted re Catherine Mckinnell. We had included her in our sums but forgotten to asterisk her. We’ve added it now. Thanks Hopi.

  3. Editor says:

    @ Hopi Sen

    Also, see Tom Watson’s column today re staff appointments. He makes exactly your point.

  4. AnneJGP says:

    An interesting article. From your list, I counted 22 new intake MPs who made it into the shadow cabinet. It is really heartening to find that the fresh intake scored so highly in the ballot. It’s also heartening that so many of the high-scoring new intake voted for Ed rather than David – I find that a reassuring indication that the right Mr Milliband was elected leader.

    But I don’t really get how the result of a ballot sheds light on Mr Miliband’s thinking or intentions.

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