Labour chief Ed Miliband puts new blood in shadow cabinet

By DAVID WOODING

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband rejuvenated his top team today by bringing five new MPs into his inner circle.

Rookies from the 2010 intake were promoted to the front bench as Mr Miliband staged his first shadow cabinet reshuffle since he landed the job a year ago.

Mr Miliband took advantage of a party rule change which allows him to choose his own spokesmen – ending the traditional elections by MPs, union chiefs and grass roots members.

Five senior MPs go out to make way for new blood – most of whom have only been MPs for less than 18 months.

Rachel Reeves (pictured right), a former Bank of England economist, becomes deputy to Ed Balls in the Treasury team. She has impressed the leadership with a wave of TV appearances since winning the Leeds West seat last year. The previous holder of the post, Angela Eagle, moves to be shadow Commons leader.

Stephen Twigg, also part of the 2010 intake, takes over as shadow education secretary, the present incumbent, Andy Burnham, moving to health – where he served as secretary of state in the last government.

Chuka Umunna, another talented, young new arrival, gets the important business brief.

Rising star Michael Dugher (pictured below left) will attend shadow Cabinet as Cabinet Office spokesman without portfolio along with fellow newcomer Liz Kendall, who becomes shadow minister for care of older people.

In other changes, Hilary Benn takes over at  Communities and Local Government, raising the delicious prospect of regular Commons jousts with Eric Pickles.

Ivan Lewis is moved from Culture Media and Sport to International Development, where he was a junior minister in the last government.

He said he was “delighted” to be returning to that field and added: “My time there was one of my most satisfying in government, helping to change the world.” Mr Lewis is replaced at Culture by deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman.

Five people leave the shadow cabinet, including shadow business secretary John Denham and health spokesman John Healey who stepped down hours before the reshuffle. (See following story)

Those sacked by Mr Miliband include Shaun Woodward, replaced at Northern Ireland by Vernon Coaker and Meg Hillier, who gives way at energy for Caroline Flint. Ann McKechin is dropped as shadow Scottish secretary in favour of Margaret Curran.

Eleven shadow minister held on to the same jobs, including the top three – shadow chancellor Ed Balls, his wife Yvette Cooper at home affairs and Douglas Alexander as Foreign Office spokesman.

Sadiq Khan keeps his job as shadow justice secretary and chief whip Rosie Winterton remains in place, as does Jim Murphy at defence, Maria Eagle at transport and Tessa Jowell on Olympics.

Peter Hain remains shadow Wales secretary, Mary Creagh will continue speaking on the environment and Liam Byrne stays on as shadow work and pensions secretary.

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Labour big guns quit as Ed Miliband plans reshuffle

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.

OUT: John Denham

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.

Fresh blood

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.

OUT: John Healey

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? 

Follow me on Twitter: @davidwooding