By DAVID WOODING
TWO former ministers have quit the shadow cabinet tonight as Ed Miliband prepares to beef up his frontbench team.
John Denham and John Healey stood down from frontline politics just hours before the Labour leader is expected to begin drawing up his new line-up.
Mr Miliband is certain to take advantage of a change in the rulebook he forced through, ending election of party spokesmen – giving him a free hand to pick who he wants.
But the departure of two big guns is a major blow to his leadership. Mr Insiders insist the departures were “civilised” and both men had indicated some time ago that they wished to stand down.
Mr Denham, 58, said he had decided some time ago not to seek re-election at the next election and it would be wrong to stay on if he had no chance of becoming a minister if Labour were to win.
The shadow business secretary, who served in Gordon Brown’s cabinet, has agreed to stay on as Mr Miliband’s unpaid Private Parliamentary Secretary as a sign of loyalty to his boss.
Shadow health secretary Mr Healey said his decision was made for “family reasons”. But he was said to be furious over the leadership’s decision to allow tobacco firms to take part in a business even at last week’s Labour rally.
And critics had been whispering for some time that Mr Healey had been under-performing and had failed to make political capital out of the coalition’s shambolic NHS reforms.
Last night there were some nervous-looking faces on Labour front benches as they awaited the call from Mr Miliband.
Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham could be switched to the health brief – as he was secretary of state in that field in the last government.
But Mr Miliband is certain to seize the chance to inject some fresh blood into the party, with rookie Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves tipped for a place on the front benches.
Senior figures such as shadow chancellor Ed Balls and, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander are expected to stay in place.
New talent tipped for promotion includes Michael Dugher, a former Downing Street aide and now MP for Barnsley East, Stoke MP Tristram Hunt and ex-TV reporter Gloria del Piero, the MP for Ashfield.
Suggestions that the former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer would return to politics as shadow leader of the Lords, opposing Lord Strathclyde, were dismissed.
A Labour spokesman said: “We do not comment on reshuffle speculation.”
Who would you bring into the shadow cabinet if you were Ed Miliband?
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