Labour’s runners and riders

Speculation will focus today on whether Yvette Cooper or Ed Balls will become shadow Chancellor. But last night's shadow cabinet result throws up some other tricky decisions.

Speculation will focus today on whether Yvette Cooper or Ed Balls will become shadow Chancellor. But last night’s shadow cabinet result throws up some other tricky decisions for the new leader.

Chief among the questions facing Ed Miliband this morning is what to do with Harriet Harman. The deputy leader is rumoured to want a big job such as shadow foreign secretary but may be asked to shadow Nick Clegg’s roving brief and focus on constitutional reform. Harman has been vindicated by the election results which see 11 women in total around the table – close to the 50:50 ratio which she advocated.

If Ms Cooper is given the nod over her husband, Mr Balls may find himself shadowing Vince Cable in the Business department. Ed Balls has been wisely praised for his Bloomberg speech which set out the case against ‘growth deniers’. After his sustained attacks on Michael Gove during the leadership election, Mr Balls is regarded as Labour’s best headhunter and Cable is seen to be the unhappiest member of the Coalition. Mr Balls has been tipped elsewhere to take the home affairs brief or even to stay at Education.

Andy Burnham, who came fourth in both the leadership contest and shadow cabinet elections, may be kept at Health to focus on the social care policies which became a signature of his leadership bid although he was recently tipped to become shadow Home Secretary.

One of the big winners is likely to be Sadiq Khan who is both the first black and minority ethnic (BAME) candidate to be elected to a shadow cabinet and the youngest member of the new shadow cabinet. As Ed Miliband’s campaign manager, he may be rewarded with the shadow home secretary portfolio. As a lawyer, he is also well qualified to be shadow justice secretary.

A prominent supporter of David Miliband is likely to be compensated with the shadow foreign secretary position. Douglas Alexander and Alan Johnson are the two front runners. Alternative scenarios could see Mr Alexander, as a lawyer, as shadow justice secretary or moved to defence following three years as Secretary of State for International Development. Alan Johnson – the most experienced member of the shadow cabinet after the departure of Alistair Darling and Jack Straw – could be asked, as a supporter of electoral reform, to lead Labour’s ‘Yes’ campaign for AV alongside shadowing Nick Clegg. Jim Murphy is another who is seen as a potential defence secretary.

Eight members of the shadow cabinet have never held Cabinet-level positions before with one, Mary Creagh, never even holding Ministerial portfolio. With the exception of John Healey, they are likely to take up the more junior positions. After nine years as a junior minister, Mr Healey – the subject of a recent LFF feature interview – may be catapulted to communities, education, or even work and pensions. Having worked in the Treasury, Angela Eagle is a good bet for shadow chief secretary. Unless Jim Murphy retains the job, Ann McKechin is likely to become shadow Scotland secretary.

Liam Byrne, who took the final place by one vote from Emily Thornberry, is one of the more numerate members of the team and is said to want to be Business Secretary. If Balls was preferred for that position, Mr Byrne would be another good bet for work and pensions.

NB: For the record, I predicted in July that Yvette Cooper would be Shadow Chancellor.

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