Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Miliband reshuffles shadow cabinet

Latest politics news

Ed Miliband has dramatically reshaped his shadow cabinet ready for the general election, demoting Blairites and installing women in key posts.

The Labour leader defied calls for Andy Burnham to be ousted from the health brief, and also kept Ed Balls as shadow chancellor.

But he ruthlessly shifted Liam Byrne from work and pensions to be replaced by Rachel Reeves, leaving him responsible for higher education and with no seat at the top table.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy will oversee international development policy, with Vernon Coaker taking over his old patch, and Stephen Twigg has been ejected from education in favour of TV historian Tristram Hunt.

Maria Eagle, a strong supporter of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project, is being switched to shadow environment secretary - raising the prospect that the party's attitude to the scheme could be about to change.

Michael Dugher, a former spokesman for Gordon Brown, has been promoted to shadow Cabinet Office minister. And Mr Brown's former adviser Spencer Livermore is being drafted in to manage the general election campaign.

Labour sources said 44% of the shadow cabinet were now women, and 31% were from the 2010 Commons intake.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has previously called for the sacking of three ministers who lost out in the reshuffle - Mr Murphy, Mr Twigg and Mr Byrne.

Labour sources insisted there had been no consultation with the union boss about the changes and denied they represented a clear-out of the remaining shadow cabinet Blairites.

"I think you will find that we have gone a lot past the days of factionalism," one source said, adding that Mr Murphy remained a member of the shadow cabinet while Mr Byrne and Mr Twigg were both happy with their new positions.

"Jim Murphy is shadow secretary of state for international development. International development is not only one of those great areas of achievement for the last Labour government but Ed is absolutely determined that it is going to be one of the most important roles of the next Labour government. We would see that as a massively important job.

"Jim is still a member of the shadow cabinet. Liam and Stephen have got very important roles which they are very happy with."

Mr Murphy is the most prominent of the remaining Blairites in Mr Miliband's top team and was campaign manager for David Miliband in the 2010 leadership election.

Mr Byrne and Mr Twigg are also seen as coming from the Blairite wing of the party - and both have had their difficulties in office.

Mr Twigg is widely regarded has having struggled against Michael Gove in the education brief while Mr Byrne has had difficulty shaking off the infamous letter he wrote before leaving the Treasury admitting "there is no money".

Women lifted up the ranks include Emma Reynolds, now shadow housing minister, and shadow equalities minister Gloria de Piero.

They will both attend shadow cabinet meetings - as will Liz Kendall in her role as shadow minister for care and older people.

Chris Leslie is bumped from shadow financial secretary to the Treasury to shadow chief secretary.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander adds responsibility for general election strategy to his duties.

Mary Creagh exchanges jobs with Maria Eagle to take charge of transport policy.

In a rare advance for the Blairite wing of the party, ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer has been brought in to advise on "transition into government".

A further batch of appointments is expected tomorrow, including a move for shadow housing minister Jack Dromey to a senior position in the home affairs team.

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