7 Oct 2013

Why Miliband’s Labour reshuffle is no purge of the Blairites

Tristram Hunt succeeds Stephen Twigg as shadow education secretary, making it a bit harder to call this reshuffle a “purge of the Blarites” – though it hasn’t stopped Grant Shapps doing just that.

Ed Miliband clashed with Liam Byrne behind the scenes and didn’t like the strident tone, as the leader saw it, of some of Mr Byrne’s welfare announcements. Stephen Twigg was another of those (with Ed Balls and Messrs Byrne and Murphy) Len McCluskey demanded be thrown out of the shadow cabinet and dubbed the “four horsemen of the austerity apocalypse”. Stephen Twigg has accepted a role outside the shadow cabinet talking about constitutional affairs and Liam Byrne has done likewise as spokesman on higher education.

Ed Miliband’s decision to keep Blairite Jim Murphy in the shadow cabinet (demoted to shadowing DfID) looks suspiciously like the act of a leader who didn’t feel strong enough to contemplate Mr Murphy on the backbenches.

Oxford Literary Festival

Ed Miliband is said to rue the decision to continue with continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD) and four Trident submarines, and there’s bound to be suspicion that the removal of Jim Murphy from defence is part of a plan to move the party to a different place on this (even though the commitment to CASD was only signed up to this summer).

In the past, Vernon Coaker, the new shadow defence secretary, has voted in favour of Trident renewal, but I wonder where he stands now and whether it came up in the chat in the leader’s office this afternoon.

One job that will fascinate some looking over the list: Jon Trickett, veteran leading figure in Compass, is the man Ed Miliband wants to oversee party renewal and the reform of the link. Hard to see Jon Trickett presiding over an “ending” of the link.

Another interesting appointment is Spencer Livermore, back as the general election campaign director. He left No. 10 in the blood-letting that followed the 2007 early general election that never was.

He’s strangely absent from Damian McBride‘s account of the Brown years, just published, but in Steve Richards’ account (published a while ago) Mr Livermore claims that Damian McBride very much worked for Ed Balls… not quite the message of Power Trip, the McBride account. Mr Livermore will work with Douglas Alexander, who resumes his role as chair of general election strategy.

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