Alex Massie

Don’t Over-Estimate Ed Miliband

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In the grand scheme of things there are few less important things than the Shadow Cabinet. Nevertheless it's the only toy in town today and so must be chewed until something fresh and shinier comes along. Poor Ed Miliband, however, was in a lose-lose situation. Appoint Ed Balls to the Treasury brief and risk looking weak and in thrall to an over-bearing Shadow Chancellor; appoint someone else to the job and look weak too, scared of your erstwhile rival and a certified "Big Beast".

Nevertheless, looking for a compromise candidare was reasonable. But choosing Alan Johnson (rather than, say, Jim Murphy) is a blunder. By his own admission Johnson wasn't up to the top job, so what makes anyone think he's up to the second most important job in the Shadow Cabinet? Is anyone scared of Alan Johnson? Nice chap, affable, seems decent enough, not likely to put the fear of god into anyone in government. Can he do detail?

And what's the reason for burying Yvette Cooper in the non-job of Shadow Foreign Secretary? Are Labour so over-freighted with talent that they can afford to marginalise Cooper in such fashion?

No, it makes little sense. If I were a Troy strategist I'd be trying to frame all this as more evidence that the new Labour leader, already in hock to the Trade Unions, is intimidated by Mr and Mrs Balls. Miliband looks, as Tony Blair might have put it, Weak, weak, weak.

Maybe Johnson will surprise us all but he does not come across as a man with grip and nor, it seems, does his leader.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticsed milibandlabour party