Peter Hoskin

Ed Miliband may have just made the defining choice of his leadership

Ed Miliband may have just made the defining choice of his leadership
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There are several eyecatching appointments in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet. Ed Balls at Shadow Home puts Labour's most vicious scrapper up against a wobbly government department. Yvette Cooper as Shadow Foreign Secretary is a suitable reward for her showing in the elections, but it is a counterintuitive use of her background in economics. MiliE loyalists Sadiq Khan and John Denham have duly received plum jobs in Justice and Business, respectively. But perhaps the most surprising appointment is also the most important: Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor.

On a purely presentational level, you can see what Ed Miliband is thinking. Like Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson has achieved that rarest thing: he is a veteran of the New Labour years, but has remained largely unblemished by the association. He is affable, popular, competent and – what will be be important to many Labour supporters – has a background that contrasts starkly with that of George Osborne. Crucially, he was also one of David Miliband's most vocal backers. Ed Miliband is demonstrating that he can forgive and forget the choices of a man who has said, among other things, that, "This stuff that’s trotted out by the Guardianistas and now Ed Miliband that we destroyed civil liberties is fundamentally wrong."

But presentation is nothing besides the politics – and the AJ appointment could say far more about Ed Miliband's politics than anything else. With it, MiliE seems to have rejected the Balls-onomics espoused by both the new Shadow Home Secretary and his wife, in favour of a more sensible approach to the public finances. Many will question whether Johnson is wired for hard economic policy, but at least he sits somewhere towards the saner end of Labour's fiscal spectrum – the end that supports Darling's plan to reduce the structural deficit by two-thirds over this parliament. If that's the approach that Ed Miliband wants to take, then he could just have saved the national debate on cuts from descending into angry farce.