24 June 2011

Dammit - Ed got there before me!

I've had the idea of a post on why Labour's system of shadow cabinet elections are a bad idea for some time now. The 2010 elections threw up mainly the members of the previous Labour cabinet who hadn't ruled themselves out or left parliament, plus a few complete no-marks. There were very few Ed Miliband backers in there and very little for him to work with, talent wise. A few of the top names have done OK - Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham. Most of the rest have been irrelevant or invisible. Meanwhile, there has been no mechanism for Ed to bring promising new MPs from the 2010 intake - e.g. Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umanna, Stella Creasy, Lisa Nandy etc. into the front line.
So the system is crying out for a change; and I was going to post at some point about this. When I got around to it. (?!)

But I don't have to make that post now, because Ed has announced that he wants to drop the system anyway. And Amen to that. There seems to have been a huge amount of support for this across the PLP, with two different groups coalescing around Ed. Neo-Blairites like it because they are in favour of centralised control anyway - that's why they dug Iraq etc. - and Ed's backers like it because it gives ED more control.

The main dissenters are hard left MPs like John McDonnell, who are arguing against the move on the grounds that it will reduce accountability. And if the Labour leader was just a parachuted-in appointment who couldn't be gotten rid of, I'd agree with John. But the leader is open to challenge. If Labour MPs, party members and affiliates don't like what Ed is doing, he can be replaced. THAT's real democracy. All the current system is managing to achieve is to minimise the chances of Labour winning the next election by lumbering Ed with a shadow cabinet team many of whom didn't vote for him and don't get on with him. That's in nobody's interests, really (except for the couple of people who think David Miliband could walk in at any moment and save the day).

This move shows that Ed is a skilled tactical politician - and if the PLP agrees to dropping shadow cabinet elections (as I think it will), we can expect a much stronger shadow cabinet team, very soon. Nice work, Ed.

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