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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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.