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 assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.