New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

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The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

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Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

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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.

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