Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet could soon lack a Liam Byrne. The shadow
work and pensions secretary is expected to announce his intention to run for the position of Mayor of Birmingham — and he’d quit
his frontbench job to do so. There is, of course, one significant ‘if’ hanging over his candidacy: it would depend on Birmingham voting in favour of having an elected mayor in their referendum on 3 May. But given the polls so far, it’s all looking quite likely.
If Byrne does go, it would leave more than just a single role for Miliband to fill. He is not just the shadow work and pensions secretary, but also the man in charge of Labour’s ongoing,
interminable policy review. And, perhaps more importantly, he is also one of the few Labour figures who naturally understand the necessity for cuts. In government, Byrne did a good deal of work to identify where cuts could be made. And he was relatively upfront about the process too, in ways that went beyond that infamous note.
Byrne’s departure could also ignite some good ol’ Labour backbiting and infighting. Some of his colleagues will surely ask why he’s leaving Project Miliband at this stage; whether it goes deeper
than the Mayor thing. And that’s before we consider a contest to be Labour’s candidate that could also involve Gisela Stuart and Sion
Simon. Whoever said local politics was dull?
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