The new Labour front bench made its first appearance at communities and local government questions this afternoon. Jon Trickett was announced as the new shadow communities and local government secretary just before 1pm and by 2:30pm he was at the dispatch box representing his party. Given the limited about of time Trickett and his team had to prepare, they managed to do a good job quizzing the government about affordable housing, brownfield sites and local government cuts.
But everyone’s mind appeared to be focused on what’s going on in the Labour party. The Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark welcomed his opposite number:
‘The shadow secretary of state was once PPS to Peter Mandelson our members will recall. And of course, Tony Blair once said that his project wouldn’t be complete until the Labour learned to love Peter Mandelson. I wonder if the right honourable gentleman is going to give us update on progress on that matter?’
While the new shadow minister for housing John Healey said he was pleased with the changes in his party:
‘This is the first Commons question time since the Labour leadership election and I am proud to speak with a party with over 350,000 members behind me – more than double the Conservative membership.’
Even Trickett’s mind appeared to wander, as he was tweeting about his new responsibilities during the session:
Politics isn't working properly. I am v excited to lead for Labour on constitutional and political reform.
— Jon Trickett (@jon_trickett) September 14, 2015
As did Diane Abbott, the new international development secretary, who joined Trickett and Healey on the front bench. During the session, she thanked WaterAid for kind words about her new role:
.@WaterAidUK thank you – so looking forward to it. Progress made but so much more to do. Let's get to it!
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) September 14, 2015
There was a ghost of Labour’s recent past too. The former shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, who resigned earlier today, popped up from the back benches to ask a question about empty properties in Doncaster. ‘She’ll be a loss to the shadow front bench’ was the response from the government. There were plenty of nods on the opposition benches too.