Labour types are pretty grumpy that yesterday’s far-reaching reshuffle of their ranks is being billed as another ‘lurch to the left’. The reality is a little more complex: the party hasn’t lurched to the left so much as lurched towards being honest about what it believes. This was what Ed Miliband did in Brighton two weeks ago. He didn’t suddenly discover, with a jolt, that he was a socialist: he just started being more honest about that.
Liam Byrne, Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy were moved not because they were hopeless performers, but because they were never really given a chance to perform. What was Labour’s policy on free schools? Twigg spent most of his tenure being tortured by the conflict between his own instincts and what it was that the party leadership thought was right. Byrne was brought in to sound ‘tough’ on welfare, but he looked weak because he was never given full rein. He wasn’t able to respond to big policies like the benefit cap, and so dithered between opposing it, supporting it, and ended up kind-of opposing it. At least moving them means the party has an opportunity to be honest about what it really thinks, rather than pretending it thinks one thing by appointing Blairites and then not letting them say anything at all.
Yesterday after Stephen Twigg was filed away on the dusty shelf of political and constitutional reform as a shadow minister of state (that’s a big fat demotion, in case you hadn’t noticed), Labour sources were briefing that they had wanted someone who was good at campaigning, which the new Shadow Education Tristram Hunt will be. But he too is a Blairite, albeit a pro-Ed one. He has his own strong instincts. But if the party is only prepared to herald change by appointing new faces rather than actually giving them freedom to think, does this mean that another talented shadow minister will be wasted?Tags: Ed Miliband, Jim Murphy, Labour, Liam Byrne, Reshuffle 2013, Stephen Twigg, Tristram Hunt, UK politics