So Ed Miliband has decided (rather quickly) on his Shadow Cabinet going forward- here are the tussles that await those lucky enough to be selected.
Shadow Chancellor- Alan Johnson faces George Osborne Johnson will almost certainly be to the right of Ed Balls fiscally (as he backed David Miliband’s leadership campaign so strongly) which will make him more credible to the country but perhaps not in his own party or to the unions. Coalition will no doubt try to portray Johnson as the “old generation” who was at the centre of the last Government which racked up a massive deficit. My gut feeling is Ed Miliband won’t be able to reign in Johnson as Brown did with Darling, and a coherent message on the economy may suffer.
Shadow Home Secretary- Ed Balls faces Theresa May Balls could be effective in this role, especially with the cuts that are coming to the Police. The issue with Balls is one of whether or not he can focus entirely on his brief and not go off on tangents. If he does drift off message towards his specialist subject, the economy, he could come into conflict with those on the right of his party.
Shadow Foreign Secretary- Yvette Cooper faces William Hague Cooper will be wasted shadowing Hague as the Shadow Foreign Secretary role is one mainly of agreement with the Government, there are few major foreign policy differences between all three major parties after all. Cooper would have been better suited to the Education or Defence portfolio in my opinion.
Shadow Health Secretary- John Healey faces Andrew Lansley Health is a rather tricky subject for Labour in opposition because of the Coalition’s commitment to increase spending on the NHS in real terms throughout the Parliamentary cycle. Healey is an unknown, and to an extent Andrew Lansley is as well. I predict therefore (scandals notwithstanding) health and the NHS will slip down the Labour attack agenda as they oppose cuts to other sectors more vehemently .
Shadow Education Secretary- Andy Burnham faces Michael Gove Burnham isn’t as combative as Ed Balls, who was effective against Gove whilst he was Shadow Education Secretary after the General Election. Burnham is a more likeable character however, and his “man from up North” persona may play well against Gove’s (slightly) upper class persona. I expect education to be a key battleground over the Parliamentary cycle, with every single cut being opposed by Labour.
Shadow Defence Secretary- Jim Murphy faces Dr. Liam Fox Defence is by far the most emotive role a politician could be appointed to at the current time. With Fox seemingly disenfranchised with his party over the cuts, Murphy should be able to make headway if he can outline where cuts to our Armed Forces should be made (no mean feat admittedly).
The rest of the Shadow Cabinet would seem to face an uphill struggle against there opposite numbers in the Coalition. Sadiq Khan will not relish taking on Ken Clarke at the despatch box on Justice matters, and neither will Douglas Alexander look forward to challenging Iain Duncan Smith on the subject of Work and Pensions. Ed Miliband’s strategy going forward must be to set up three or four credible attack lines on the cuts maximum and to maintain cohesion between his MPs, activists and trade unions.