Shadow cabinet candidates announced

The full list of candidates for the shadow cabinet with the New Statesman’s tips for who to watch.

Although overshadowed by the announcement that David Miliband has not put his name forward, the full list of candidates for the shadow cabinet has just been released by the Labour Party. Here it is:

Diane Abbott
Douglas Alexander
Ed Balls
Hilary Benn
Ben Bradshaw
Andy Burnham
Roberta Blackman-Woods
Kevin Brennan
Liam Byrne
Chris Bryant
Vernon Coaker
Yvette Cooper (Health)
Mary Creagh
Wayne David
John Denham
Angela Eagle
Maria Eagle
Rob Flello
Caroline Flint
Mike Gapes
Barry Gardiner
Helen Goodman
Peter Hain
David Hanson
Tom Harris
John Healey
Meg Hillier
Huw Irranca-Davies
Alan Johnson
Eric Joyce
Kevan Jones
Tessa Jowell
Barbara Keeley
Sadiq Khan
David Lammy (Cabinet Office)
Chris Leslie
Ivan Lewis
Ian Lucas
Pat McFadden
Fiona Mactaggart
Ann McKechin
Alun Michael
Jim Murphy (Northern Ireland)
Gareth Thomas
Emily Thornberry
Stephen Timms
Stephen Twigg (Development)
Shaun Woodward
Iain Wright

Bold denotes inclusion in the NS's round-up of the elections -- you can read James Macintyre's full runners and riders piece here.

A rough count reveals at least 15 former cabinet members. As for absences, Jack Dromey is missing, as, of course, is David Miliband.

Diane Abbott is on the list, though, and it will be interesting to watch how she fares with her fellow MPs with her newly heightened profile after the leadership contest. Even before the ballot papers went out, Ed Miliband had said: "Diane shouldn't just go back to This Week when this is over. She has a part to play." Definitely one to watch.

There are 36 men standing and 13 women. Under new rules just brought in by the Parliamentary Labour Party, six of the 19 spots available have to go to women, even if their male counterparts outpoll them. That means just under half of the women standing will end up in the shadow cabinet.

The former cabinet office-holders Yvette Cooper, Tessa Jowell and Caroline Flint will be strongly tipped to take three of the spots, but beyond that the field among the women looks wide open.

UPDATE: It is also worth noting that, following the news that Nick Brown will not be standing to retain his position to shadow chief whip, Rosie Winterton is now the only candidate for the position.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.