James Forsyth

Brown misses an opportuntiy

Brown misses an opportuntiy
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A quick check on the health of a party is whether there is more talent on the back benches than the front bench. Labour are close to that tipping point with Charles Clarke, Jon Cruddas, Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers, Denis MacShane, David Blunkett and Frank Field all out of the front line. Any of these would have added heft to the cabinet and all are more impressive figures than Caroline Flint and Yvette Cooper. If Brown had appointed Milburn to the Department of Work and Pensions he would have shown that he has moved on from the Blairite Brownite fights of the past and would have put someone in place who could have given the Tories a fight over welfare reform.

A Treasury duo of Alistair Darling and Yvette Cooper seems rather low-watt in these troubled economic times; it appears that Brown will only appoint those who have been with him on the long march to power to his old department. Yvette Cooper, like most of Brown’s closest allies, is a poor media performer—Iain Martin has some particularly astute points on Cooper’s shortcomings--in a brief where she is going to be on TV and radio a lot over the next few months. 

If Labour is going to win the next election they have to get their A team on the field. This limited reshuffle suggests that Brown hasn’t grasped this. Indeed, the Tories are the only one of the three main parties who are fielding their strongest possible line up at the moment with several of the Lib Dems biggest beasts sitting things out at the moment. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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