Election 2010 Lookahead: Sunday 2 May

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Four days to go before election day. Here's what is happening on the last Sunday of the campaign



Schools Secretary Ed Balls is heading to Liverpool to take part in an education debate at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference. Balls will go head-to-head with Michael Gove and David Laws, his Conservative and Liberal Democrat shadows respectively. The debate begins at 11.15am.



Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague is on The Politics Show this morning (BBC1, 11.00am) to debate with Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Lib Dem shadow Ed Davey. Jon Sopel will be asking the questions.


Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg goes north today. He will be in Burnley (10.15am), Marsden (12.30pm), Harrogate (2.45pm) and Cleveland (5.30pm).


The media

Following its sister title the Guardian yesterday, the Observer is also backing the Liberal Democrats. The paper says the Lib Dems "represent an agenda for radical, positive change in poilitics". Meanwhile, David Cameron is the last of the party leaders to be interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show (BBC1, 9.00am), while BBC Scotland hosts the third and final Scottish leaders' debate (9.00pm), featuring Scottish National Party (SNP) Westminster leader Angus Robertson, Scottish Conservatives leader Annabel Goldie, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott.


Away from the campaign

Big day of football today and if you are looking for some time away from the election campaign, we recommend you take an extended lunch break from 1.30pm. That's the kick-off for two big games. In the Championship Sheffield Wednesday play Crystal Palace. If Palace avoid defeat, Wednesday will be relegated to League One. If Wednesday win, it will be Palace who are relegated. Meanwhile in the Premier League Liverpool play host to Chelsea knowing they can do rivals Manchester United a big favour by stopping the London side winning. Should Chelsea win and United lose at Sunderland, Chelsea will be champions.



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What Labour MPs who want to elect the shadow cabinet are forgetting

The idea is to push Jeremy Corbyn to build an ideologically broad team, but it distracts from the real hurdle – management.

Labour MPs who have been critical of Jeremy Corbyn are pushing to vote for shadow cabinet members – rather than having all the posts appointed by the leader.

Most of the parliamentary Labour party who are not Corbyn loyalists believe this should be the “olive branch” he offers them, in order to put his recent words about “unity” and “wiping the slate clean” into action.

Corbyn and his allies have refused to consider such an idea outside of a “wider” democratisation of the party – saying that Labour members should also get a say in who’s on the frontbench. It’s also thought Corbyn is reluctant due to the shadow cabinet having three representatives on the National Executive Committee. He wouldn’t want his opponents voting for those, tipping the balance of the Committee back towards centrists.

Shadow cabinet elections were a longstanding convention for Labour in opposition until Ed Miliband urged the party to vote against them in 2011. Labour MPs on different wings of the party believe a return to the system would avoid Labour’s frontbench being populated solely by Corbyn’s ideological wing.

But there is a complication here (aside from the idea of a party leader having to run an effective opposition with their opponents in key shadow cabinet positions).

Proponents of shadow cabinet elections say they would help to make Labour a broad church. But really they could put those in the “make-it-work” camp who initially helped form Corbyn’s team in a difficult position. Initially conciliatory MPs like Thangam Debonnaire and Heidi Alexander have since left their posts, revealing frustration more at Corbyn’s management style than policy direction. Chi Onwurah MP, who remains a shadow minister, has also expressed such concerns.

One senior Labour MP points out that the problem with shadow cabinet elections lies in those who left Corbyn’s shadow cabinet but had wanted to cooperate – not in bringing ideological opponents into the fold.

“There were lots of people on his team who actually liked Jeremy, and wanted to make policy with him,” they tell me. “And many of them eventually felt they had to leave because of how difficult it was to work with him. They wanted to stay but couldn’t. If people like that couldn’t stay, will they go back? It will be much harder for him to show them he can work differently.”

One of the “make-it-work” faction voices their concern about returning to the shadow cabinet via elections for this reason. “A lot of us [who left] are still really interested in our policy areas and would be happy to help if they asked,” they say. “But it was too difficult to be taken seriously when you were actually in those shadow cabinet meetings.”

My source describes a non-collegiate approach in meetings around the shadow cabinet table, where Corbyn would read out pre-written opening statements and responses when they delivered their ideas. “It was like he wasn’t really listening.”

The plan to reintroduce shadow cabinet elections barely left the ground in a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on Saturday night, on the eve of Labour conference.

This is in spite of Labour MPs urging the NEC to make a decision on the matter soon. Jon Ashworth, an NEC member and shadow minister, told me shortly after Corbyn’s victory speech that this would be “a good way of bringing people back” in to the team, and was determined to “get some resolution on the issue” soon.

It doesn’t look like we’ll get that yet. But for some who have already tried serving on the frontbench, it’s a distraction from what is for them a management – rather than an ideological – problem.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.