Shadow cabinet results . . .

. . . some initial thoughts.

As George has noted, we got the results earlier than 9pm and there are some surprise results (Peter Hain's failure to make the 19) and some expected results (Yvette Cooper topped the poll).

Some initial observations and random thoughts:

* The top three are all members of Team Balls – Balls himself, his wife, Yvette Cooper, and the former housing minister John Healey. MPs backing Balls were decisive in swinging the leadership election to Ed Miliband in the fourth round and have now had a huge influence on the shadow cabinet election.

* Of the top ten, as the ToryPressHQ Twitter feed has mischievously noted, not a single MP put Ed Miliband down as his or her first choice in the leadership election.

* Of the "gang of four" – the quartet of ex-cabinet ministers who backed Ed Miliband – three managed to get elected (John Denham, Sadiq Khan and Hilary Benn) and one (Peter Hain) did not. How will the Labour leader reward the three who survived, if at all? And poor Peter Hain . . .

* There was much fuss about the recent rule change guaranteeing six elected seats in the shadow cabinet to female MPs – in the end, eight of the 19 turned out to be women. As George points out, once you throw in Harriet Harman (deputy leader), Rosie Winterton (the new chief whip) and Baroness Royall (shadow leader of the Lords), "the shadow cabinet contains 11 women (out of 25), not far off Harriet Harman's original target of a 50:50 split".

* Eric Joyce came bottom with ten votes; Emily Thornberry missed out by one vote (getting 99 compared to Liam Byrne's 100 – the latter scraped in, 19th).

* The twins Angela and Maria Eagle have both been elected to the shadow cabinet. So, despite the departure of David Miliband from front-line politics, Labour's front bench still has a pair of siblings to match the Balls-Cooper husband-wife combo.

* The campaign for Yvette Cooper to be appointed shadow chancellor gathers pace: after a brilliant week in which she skewered George Osborne on his child benefit cut and his benefits cap, Mrs Balls did not just top the shadow cabinet election, she won it by a 40-vote margin over second-placed John Healey and secured the votes of 232 out of 258 Labour MPs. Impressive!

* There had been some suggestions yesterday that Ed Miliband would wait till Monday to announce who would be getting what job but I've been told that the decision will be "tomorrow".

My own view has always been that the biggest job of all, the shadow chancellorship, should go to Ed Balls. I still think that would be the right thing to do, but some Labour sources have suggested to me that it might not go to either Mr or Mrs Balls. I think that'd be a mistake – and I'm not sure who's next in line. It wouldn't suit Alan Johnson. Jim Murphy?

Ed Mili – over to you.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser