You may think it’s still months away. But the manoeuvrings have already begun.
Up to 40 Labour MPs are likely to put themselves forward for the shadow cabinet elections this autumn including ambitious younger figures such as David Lammy, Kevin Brennan, Tom Harris and Barbara Keeley.
Others who have indicated their ambition to stand include Phil Woollas, John Healey, Caroline Flint, Chris Bryant, Jon Cruddas and Angela Eagle. So too has Stephen Twigg (pictured), despite only having been re-elected to Parliament last month.
The internal elections won’t take place until after the new party leader is chosen in late September. The breadth of field in the contest – with many low-profile MPs entering the fray – could mean a distinct change in Labour’s public profile as new faces take on more responsibility.
Several high-profile veterans, including Alistair Darling and Jack Straw, former chancellor and justice secretary, are by contrast poised to bow out of frontline politics and hand over the torch to a new generation of MPs. Alan Johnson and Bob Ainsworth, who were home secretary and defence secretary in the last Labour cabinet, are also seen as uncertain to stand. Both, along with Mr Darling, are supporting the candidacy of David Miliband for party leader. The loss from the front bench of such experienced operators is not being welcomed in all quarters.
“It would be dangerous if we ended up with a shadow cabinet without any of the greybeards,” said one Labour MP.
However, a significant number of the last cabinet will put their names forward for election, such as Yvette Cooper, Peter Hain, Liam Byrne, Hilary Benn, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander. (Not sure about Tessa Jowell at this point.)
The poll has the potential to be humiliating for any former high-flyers who do not finish high up in the vote.
It has been nearly two decades since the last election process for a Labour shadow cabinet. MPs with strong credentials as “attack dogs” typically performed well in those polls, such as Ann Clwyd, Clare Short and Mo Mowlam.
Harriet Harman, deputy leader, recently called for the body to be 50 per cent female, which would suggest about 10 women on the front bench – and a large caucus of frustrated male MPs.
Ed Miliband, one of the leadership contenders, has embraced this idea whole-heartedly. If it is enacted it could prompt many more women to step forward for the shadow cabinet, including Emily Thornberry. Already there are negative rumblings about this positive discrimination, however, with one Labour MP describing it to me as “completely hatstand“.
ps: A few other names are still considering their options, including Pat McFadden and Gareth Thomas.