The Blair Ditch Project? The Labour and Coalition reshuffles

Ed Miliband’s decision to remove or demote three of the most senior Blairite figures in his shadow cabinet was, according to the New Statesman’s Rafael Behr, not anti-Blairite but post-Blairite. A move that demonstrates a shift from the Blair/Brown battles that have defined Labour since 1994 to a new era of Milibandism – with nearly a third of the shadow cabinet now new MPs elected in 2010.

Yet to argue this is simply a belated shift to a new generation (back in 2010 his first conference speech had the same theme) doesn’t reflect the fact that those on top are almost all Brownites. If Behr is right and we are in a post-Blair era, then perhaps it’s less to do with a shift to Milibandism than simply the victory of Brown’s old team.

That, at least, is the line the Conservatives have taken as part of their efforts to brand Miliband’s reshuffle – unusually carried out while the Government’s own reshuffle was in progress – as a sop to Unite union leader Len McCluskey. Yet whatever Miliband’s true intentions in demoting Stephen Twigg, Liam Byrne and Jim Murphy, it’s undeniable that the Labour leader can exercise his power more freely now than at any point in his leadership so far. It’s also worth noting how the shift towards more traditional left-wing rhetoric ties in with Labour’s electoral strategy for 2015, particularly given the importance of mobilising core voters and disaffected, left-leaning Lib Dems.

For the Conservatives, much has been made of the ‘F.O.G.’; those friends of George Osborne who found promotion – including Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid and Greg Hands. This emphasis on Osborne’s personal power base slightly distracts from the closeness between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, and the fact that many Cameron allies, like Amber Rudd and Sam Gymiah, were also promoted, as well as from the PM’s decision to leave his Cabinet-level Ministers in place.

Austerity bites?

New BBC polling has shown that six out of 10 people think that the quality of public services has been maintained or improved during the past five years – a statistic seized upon by the Prime Minister at PMQs today as evidence that the Government’s policies are working.

But it’s not all good news for David Cameron, because while six out of 10 people might think that the quality of public services has been maintained or improved, it’s clear from the stats the vast majority fall into the former category, not the latter. Only 15% think services have improved overall, with 42% saying they’ve remained the same and 40% saying they’ve got worse since 2008. So despite recent positive economic forecasts, the PM will still be wary that the Government’s plan to stick with austerity might mean some of those 42% could start to notice a decline in service levels just as we get to 2015.

Jake Rigg

Jake Rigg

Jake is the Managing Director at Keene Communications, specialising in government relations activities on financial services, tax and competition in the UK and the EU. He also specialises in planning and stakeholder engagement.

He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
Jake Rigg

About the Author

Jake is the Managing Director at Keene Communications, specialising in government relations activities on financial services, tax and competition in the UK and the EU. He also specialises in planning and stakeholder engagement. He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.