Over at the Daily Mail’s new political blog Kirsty Walker speculated this evening about who may be bumped out of the shadow cabinet in a reshuffle widely expected within weeks.
As Kirsty writes, the knives are already out for Meg Hillier, energy spokesperson, and Ann McKechin, shadow Scotland secretary. Neither are judged to have made an enormous impact over the last year. I’m told that Hillier, who has a young family, would not be entirely unhappy about the prospect.
My understanding is that there will also be movement in the House of Lords, where Ed Miliband wants Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, to replace Baroness Royall. Falconer, who was heavily involved in the epic filibustering over boundary reforms back in the spring, is seen as an impressive political bruiser. He is also a Blairite, indeed a former flatmate of Tony Blair.
(Questions also surround Tessa Jowell, who – despite being very highly rated – is said to want to step down next summer, after the Olympics, to concentrate on community work and saving her newly rearranged constituency.)
But all this potentially raises a big issue; Miliband will not want to look as if he is undertaking a women-only cull. So he may have to find female replacements – Rachel Reeves and Luciana Berger have been rumoured – or also get rid of some male colleagues. If so, who? Some are keen for the departure of Shaun Woodward, shadow Northern Ireland secretary; but he is still valued for his strategic brain and Stormont experience. And what about Jon Trickett, responsible for the Cabinet Office, who is virtually invisible? “We can’t move him, he’s Ed’s mate,” I’m told.
Meanwhile there are plans afoot to bring back a big beast, although it’s not yet clear who this will be. Alistair Darling is unlikely, having fallen out with some of Ed’s campaign team last summer. David Blunkett and Jack Straw don’t appear to have the appetite for frontbench action anymore. So who could it be? Alan Johnson – or a more surprising choice?
The plans to axe shadow cabinet elections – clearing the way for a reshuffle – were announced months ago but will be formally endorsed at conference, paving the way for Miliband to pick a new team.
The Labour leader is still keen to dilute the union vote at conference, a move which is vehemently opposed by the brothers – although the Evening Standard reports tonight that talks are making some progress towards a compromise deal.