by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
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07:30

At last! Labour finally has a recognisable shadow cabinet

Until yesterday's reshuffle Keir Starmer appointed political pygmies
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

Say what you like about Keir Starmer: at least he’s never been overshadowed by his shadow cabinet. 

He’s had the occasional clash with his deputy, Angela Rayner; but in terms of stature, there’s no contest. In a field of political pygmies he stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. 

Of course, few people care about who the shadow minister for paperclips is; but in forming his shadow cabinets, Starmer seemed determined to achieve new depths of obscurity. Shadow Chancellors and Shadow Home Secretaries have been appointed and then dis-appointed without anyone noticing they were ever there.  

A Shadow Cabinet is, in theory, a government-in-waiting. It would be helpful if voters were able to form a view about its most senior members. But among moderately (if not obsessively) interested voters, how many shadow ministers have more than homeopathic levels of recognition?  

Before yesterday’s reshuffle, I’d have put the figure somewhere between four and six. Angela Rayner, Emily Thornbury, Ed Miliband and David Lammy, for sure. And perhaps Lisa Nandy and Rachel Reeves too. 

The appointment of Yvette Cooper as Shadow Home Secretary indicates a change of tack on Starmer’s part — as does David Lammy’s promotion to Shadow Foreign Secretary. This is a more recognisable Shadow Cabinet than it was yesterday.

On the other hand, let’s not forget that Labour has been in opposition for eleven years. By now, the party should have built-up a deeper bench. In 2008 — which was the equivalent year for the Tories — David Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet included William Hague, George Osborne, Dominic Grieve, Eric Pickles, Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Oliver Letwin, David Willetts, Andrew Lansley and Francis Maude. Many of those names would become better known in subsequent years, but even at the time informed voters knew who they were. That’s not to say they were universally admired, but at least the public cared enough to have an opinion. 

Of course, in 2008, all of the Tories I’ve mentioned were just two years away from ministerial office. What’s more, it was widely assumed that they’d be forming a government before long. That’s reason enough to take an interest.

Do we believe the same of Labour today? Not until recently. In making so many lacklustre appointments, Starmer showed every sign of not believing it himself. 

However, yesterday’s reshuffle may be a sign he’s beginning to hope. 

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago

Labour’s still at about 1985. Yvette Cooper is a virtue-signalling nobody remembered if at all for the pointless and wasteful HIPs.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
10 months ago

Yvette Copper will help Labour ratings – if she stops banging on about identity politics and starts to recognise males as equal to women – but David Lammy is definitely a risk.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ian Barton
Matt M
Matt M
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I’m sure Yvette “#refugeeswelcome” Cooper will be a great asset in the battle to stop illegal immigration. I still want to know how many asylum seekers she and Ed put up in their home as promised in 2016.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The trouble for a current Labour shadow cabinet is almost the same as the trouble that Starmer has. You can be somewhat anonymous or you can put your best talent forward into the limelight so everyone is reminded that they don’t trust you. They are all tainted by their/his attempts to undermine the Brexit vote. Maybe they knew it at the time and maybe they didn’t, but the stake for bet they placed on seeking a second referendum or the other shananigans in Parliament was their career. And they lost the bet.
It may well be that they are the best talent that Starmer has available but they are also a millstone around his neck and he theirs.

R S Foster
R S Foster
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

…Lammy? More than a risk. Hates this Country and most of the people in it…so he’ll be out there in the World agreeing with our enemies about what a vile place we are. Not a good look for voters in Red Wall seats cleaving to the “Flag, Faith and Family” version of Labour Party politics…

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Agree, he’s thick as mince and an absolute gift to the Tories. Increased majority next time, I reckon.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

There’s a good chance Cooper will lose her seat at the next election. Her majority went from 15,000 to 1,000 at the last one. Wouldn’t take much for this Remainer to be booted.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

“It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools”

Starmer is a poor craftsman, and his tools also need blaming. A new adage could be created just for this “A poor Craftsman with poor tools does a bad job.”

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

This has always struck me as a strange saying. When actually making physical objects, it is the people who are learning the craft who most have need of good tools. It is frustratingly difficult for an expert to get a good result with bad tools, but impossible for the novice. And, of course, it is the novices that are most often suffering under the burden of bad or inappropriate tools, because they lacked the judgement to avoid them. “There’s a reason that thing you just bought was so inexpensive.” comes to play, among other things.

Last edited 10 months ago by Laura Creighton
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

Well, I am actually a professional tradesman, carpentry mostly – but all the rest too, and you should see my tools, thousands of them as I do all the trades to some extent….And they are all in heaps and piles of disarray, and many rusted and worn to nubs – and although I often use low grade tools, (homeowner grade) there really is a difference. But you are right – a good tradesman can get by with low quality tools – but they make it a lot harder.

I can pick up identical looking tools and right away know which is professional grade, and which is not – tools are odd, they eventually become an extension of yourself. Like all carpenters when I take hold of my ‘Skill saw’ (hand held circular saw) it is almost like a prosthetic, it just is sort of one with me – like a tennis pro must be with their racket – One’s hammer becomes sort of like personal – it becomes Yours, your hammer, from so much use of it, a different one just seems wrong sort of and you want yours if misplaced instead of picking up some other.
I am just putting off studying… in two days I take my contractor’s license test – what a huge pain in the a**, so I shirk by being on line – but off to study that Cra* again…. 9 big text books…..$800 worth of them, and for all I know the test is easy – or hard….,

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Good luck with it!

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

New Packaging! New Recipe! Same lack of effectiveness.

jill dowling
jill dowling
10 months ago

Starmer is even more hopeless than I thought. Three illiberal elites, with Emily Thornberry taking the crown. Don’t worry Boris, you can do whatever you like, you are safe.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
10 months ago

Given Labour’s constitution, there was no way Starmer could “clean the stables” in one hit, so this was always likely.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ian Barton
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago

Labour needs to reclaim its Brexity former heartlands if it’s to get anywhere near Downing Street. I’m not sure Remainers who still attack working class Brexit voters such as Cooper and Lammy are the best people to do this personally

David Percival
David Percival
10 months ago

This makes Labour even more like the Tories as he shuffles to the right. All the promises he made to get elected leader now thrown out of the window. There is effectively no difference between Labour and Tories. If I bother to vote it will have to be Green I suppose.

David Percival
David Percival
10 months ago

Starmer has broken the pledge to keep to left policies when he was elected leader and his actions show there is little difference between Labour and Tory parties. If I vote next time I suppose it will have to be Green.