Most of the reshuffle-related excitement in Westminster is focused on a pending Tory one. But does Ed Miliband’s top team need a bit of freshening up too? I blogged last week that Labour backbenchers, including a number with serious experience of government, were unhappy with the way many of the Labour top dogs are failing to go out to bat for their leader. Miliband has certainly trodden on his stumps in the past few days with some broadcast gaffes, but he does have a problem with the batting order below him.
Yvette Cooper has worked hard to turn around the Labour position on immigration from the Gillian Duffy days to boasting that the party wants to be ‘tougher than the Tories’ (although that ‘tougher than the Tories’ line seems to be applied to any policy area that Labour wants to neutralise, including immigration and welfare, rather than make radical or distinctive policy proposals on). But she has struggled to land any blows on the Conservatives. Theresa May has been a very successful Home Secretary, but like all who hold her job, she’s had a few tricky issues to deal with on her watch. Cooper has rarely managed to turn these tricky issues into running stories that can seriously damage May, and her response to the stop-and-search announcement recently managed to irritate some on her own side who have been agitating for reform and who were pleased with May’s progress.
Meanwhile Ed Balls does have a habit of either disappearing or making slightly bitchy comments when his leader is under the cosh, and other colleagues such as Andy Burnham spend as much time fighting accusations about their record as ministers as they do fighting the Tories (although Burnham has enjoyed a fair bit of success in winding his opponents up with emotive language about ‘our NHS’).