Martin Bright

Shadow Cabinet or Cabinet of the Weird?

Shadow Cabinet or Cabinet of the Weird?
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The real problem for the Labour Party with the election of Ed Miliband is not the man himself, who is easy to like and, by instinct, a centrist politician from the New Labour tradition (however hard he tries to disown it now). No, the difficulty is the oddness of it the whole business.

If the brother versus brother leadership contest had not been enough to cause the nation to raise a collective eyebrow, now we have the bizarre spectacle of a husband and wife taking the jobs of shadow home and foreign secretaries. This is just dead weird. 

Every professional couple knows how difficult it is to hold together two careers and a family life. That Balls and Cooper have managed this as two of the most prominent politicians in the country has been one of the marvels of the modern political world. To manage when one partner will have to spend much of the year travelling abroad is approaching miraculous. 

In opposition, the  Labour Party has to prove it is normal again, but these two appointments send out a very strange message.

One way to look at it, is to see this as another expression of Ed Miliband's ruthlessness. Just as Gordon Brown sent his biggest rival to the Foreign Office, so has his protege pushed the most popular member of the Shadow Cabinet into a job that will keep her away from Westminster for much of the year. In opposition, this is often viewed as a minor job and certainly one where it is difficult to build a power base in parliament.

The more i think about it, the more peculiar this shadow cabinet is. The Balls-Cooper appointments are just as strange when you consider the jobs they were not given as the jobs they were. To have two of Labour's most able economic brains nowhere near the Treasury or the Business department is plain perverse. 

It suggests there is only one person who intends to run Labour's economic policy: Ed Miliband.