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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Did Titantic do more for climate change than Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary?

Sex, icebergs and individual plight: the actor’s earlier outing teaches us more about vast disasters than his new docufilm about global warming’s impact, Before the Flood.

“Now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me . . . in every way that a person can be saved.” Or did he? For Titanic actor Leonardo DiCaprio, there is one way in which Jack never did rescue Rose: from the threat of climate catastrophe. 

Over the last 15 years, DiCaprio has made the issue a personal mission. Yet even in his role as UN climate ambassador, he stills feels far from heroic:

“If the UN really knew how I feel, how pessimistic I am about our future . . . I mean to be honest, they may have picked the wrong guy.”

So begins his new documentary, Before the Flood. A quest for answers on climate change, the film sees Leo racing around the world, marvelling at the sound of endangered whales, despairing at the destruction caused by tar-sands – “it looks like Mordor” – and interviewing a series of concerned experts, from professors to Barack Obama to the Pope.

There are plenty of naysayers to stand in his way and put him down. “Who better to educate world leaders on made-up climate change and a crisis that doesn't exist, than an actor with zero years of scientific training?” mocks one commentator from Fox News.

But if DiCaprio can gather enough evidence to believe in himself – AND believe that there are viable solutions out there – then so can we. Or so the story arc promises. His journey thus stands as a guide for our own; a self-education that will lead to salvation for all. 

It's all a little messianic. The film is even named after a biblical painting. And will those who don't already know who DiCaprio is even care? 

The sad fact is that, while DiCaprio’s lasting popularity still owes so much Titanic, the 1997 box-office smash that made his name, his new documentary fails to recapture the dramatic wisdom that put him there. It doesn’t even quip about the icebergs.

This is an oversight. Titanic didn’t win 11 academy awards for nothing. As well as a must-see rite of passage (pun intended) and soundtrack for infinite school discos, it taught me something invaluable about storytelling. Though I was not initially a DiCaprio fan, over the years I’ve come to accept that my lasting love of the film is inseparable from my emotional investment in Leo, or at least in his character, Jack. What Titanic showed so brilliantly was that the fastest way to empathise with suffering on a vast scale – be it a sinking ship or a sinking planet – is to learn to care for the fate of one or two individuals involved.

Every part of Jack and Rose's story is thus intimately linked with the story of the ship. Even that famed sex scene gains its erotic force not from the characters alone, but from their race through the blazing engine room (situated as it is between the foreplay of the naked portrait and the famous post-coital ending in the back of the cab).

And such carefully crafted storytelling isn't only essential to great entertainment but to great activism too. It can literally inspire action – as evidenced by fans’ desperate attempts to prove that both Jack and Rose could have climbed to safety aboard the floating piece of wood.

So would Before the Flood have been better if it had been a little bit more like Titanic and less like An Inconvenient Truth? Yes. And does that mean we should make climate films about epic polar bear love stories instead? Not exactly. 

There are many powerful documentaries out there that make you emotionally invested in the lives of those experiencing the consequences of our indirect (fossil fuel-burning) actions. Take Virunga, a heart-wrenching insight into the struggle of those protecting eastern Congo’s national park.

Sadly, Before the Flood is not one of them. Its examples of climate change – from Beijing air pollution to coral reef destruction – are over-familiar and under-explored. Instead of interviewing a Chinese official with a graph on his iPad, I would have preferred visiting a solar-panel factory worker and meeting their family, who are perhaps suffering from the effects of the smog in a way I can't yet imagine.

If you want a whistlestop tour of all things climate change then this necessary and urgent film is the movie for you. But those hoping it will give new depth to climate activism will be disappointed.

DiCaprio's distant relationship with the effects of climate change leave him stranded at the level of a narrator. He makes for a great elderly Rose, but we need a Jack.

Before The Flood is in limited theatres from 21 October and will be shown on National Geographic on Sunday 30 October.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.