Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

A flat cap cabinet?

Progress Magazine’s Insider columnist brings the gossip and inside track from inside Labour politics

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If you want to get ahead, get a tyke. That seems to be the motto of the parliamentary Labour party.

The leader, chief whip, shadow chancellor, home and foreign secretaries all make their political home in the historic white rose county. Then there’s Caroline Flint, John Healey and Mary Creagh, all doing their bit to ensure the M1 is Labour’s path to power.

So does the ‘New Generation’ speak with a broad Yorkshire accent? Not quite. Most of the Yorkshire brigade are London transplants, with long experience toiling in the Westminster hothouse, trade union HQs and councils.

This London-Yorkshire axis makes one appointment particularly fascinating. Jon Trickett, the MP for Hemsworth, is the only backbencher to move directly to the shadow cabinet. Today, he’s mostly known for being Gordon Brown’s last PPS. Before that, he was symbolic of backbenchers’ gradual disenchantment with Labour’s third term agenda of public service reform. Jon was chair of the soft left parliamentary group Compass, and the top man on Jon Cruddas’ deputy leadership campaign.

Some scarred by the battles of late Blairism might look at that record and take fright. They shouldn’t. Well before he became a champion of the inside left, Jon was Peter Mandelson’s PPS. Of course, this was back when the pussycat Prince of Darkness saw some value in keeping the Labour party united.

Today, Trickett is Miliband’s consigliore. His role is to be Miliband’s eyes and ears in the party, making sure the leader is aware of emerging issues and discontent. He’ll also keep a watching brief on the policy review being conducted by Liam Byrne, making sure that policies are consulted on widely and based on principles that chime with the aspirations of the millions of voters Labour lost before 2005.

An understated, reasonable man, whose background as both a politics graduate and a blue collar worker gives him a perspective different to the metropolitan thirtysomethings who make up the rest of the ‘New Generation’, Jon will be essential to the success of Miliband’s leadership.
If you want to know where Miliband’s supporters want him to lead the party, you should listen carefully to the real Yorkshire accent at the shadow cabinet table.

Young guns

Miliband’s team have run an impressively smooth operation since being elected.

The first month of any leadership is a huge test of political dexterity. You have to hire staff, decide strategy, make speeches, respond to events and define your public image, all at the same time. Most MPs, however they voted, are full of praise for the way Miliband has met these tests. Some of this is simply the usual suspects ingratiating themselves with a rising, not a setting, sun, but even those who have no need to creep to the new leader murmur their approval.

This even extends to the promotion of two dozen young guns of the 2010 intake to frontbench roles. Usually, this innovation would be greeted by mild chuntering, but the huge group of 66 new MPs and the dozens of old stagers who find life on the backbenches more congenial than the hard slog of opposition made appointing a slew of young guns inevitable.

Broadly, MPs recognise that from Ali to Woodcock, the Miliband appointees are talented and represent a wide spread of the party. Kudos to the new team settling into the leader’s offices in Norman Shaw South.

Spare a thought, though, for the talented 2010 entrants who weren’t selected. The likes of Tristram Hunt, Anas Sarwar, Stella Creasy, Pam Nash and Gregg McClymont will be congratulating their comrades through slightly gritted teeth. Yet they might be the real winners. Given the chance to make their parliamentary reputation on their own terms, they can pursue wounded ministers at will and pick their own paths to glory. Congratulate the young guns at the dispatch box, but watch out for the sharp shooters still on the backbenches.


Yes! or no?

Paul Sinclair, the shiny-pated former Daily Record political editor, special adviser and Number 10 spinner is to head the ‘Yes! to fair votes’ referendum campaign. (Picture your correspondent grinding his teeth at that ludicrously placed exclamation mark).

Sinclair is a glutton for punishment. He was one of many who were pulled in, chewed up then spat out by the Downing Street Machine in the Gordon Brown years, but he was smart enough to get out in time to land an excellent job at Hill & Knowlton.

The return of such a well-connected player will help the Labour party avoid the charge that our support for electoral reform is halfhearted. But the campaign will be tough to win, despite Sinclair’s skills. Many Labour activists are ambivalent, while the Tories are entirely opposed and the Liberal Democrats distracted by their other problems.

This means the inside bet is that the AV referendum is doomed. So your correspondent hopes that Sinclair’s self-sacrifice is rewarded even if the Yes campaign does indeed go down the swanny, idiotic exclamation mark and all.

Cartoon: Adrian Teal

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The Insider

2 comments

  • Yes but trickett left compass under s shadow for selling out on the battle for 42 days detention, he was to vote no then voted yes to become Browns bag boy, left a nasty taste in the mouth, Crudass as we know is a type of politician with his eye on something what that is god knows but a lefty not a chance speaks the speak but one look at his voting record you can see he was a Blairite, Caroline Flint blew her bolt with her stupid remarks about council house people being worse then Gypsies. Rum lot of late

  • If only there were more Tykes in Government instead of imports from the Westminster village, the constituencies some visit too infrequently might be faring rather better. If the new guard had anything about them then they might have done something, anything, in the wider country and not just in the Westminster bubble (the Wubble?). Things can only get better…but it takes work and dedication to more than just your own career to revitalise some of our towns and town Labour Parties. Let’s see some elbow grease by the full-timers outside the Wubble!

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