Shadow cabinet: who gets what job?

As Ed Miliband prepares to announce his top team, here's a guide to some likely appointments.

The shadow cabinet results are in and, as Mehdi wrote last night, Ed Miliband is expected to unveil his top team today. Yvette Cooper, who finished top of the poll with 232 votes, 40 more than the second-placed John Healey, is in pole position for the shadow chancellorship, with Ed Balls the only other plausible candidate. Should she get the nod, Balls is likely to be handed the task of shadowing Vince Cable in the Business department, a role which will allow him to utilise his economic expertise. But there's an outside chance that he'll be named shadow home secretary or continue tormenting Michael Gove at Education.

Sadiq Khan, who served as Ed Miliband's campaign manager and is the first minority ethnic MP to be elected to a shadow cabinet, is likely to be rewarded with the justice or home affairs portfolio. John Denham and Hilary Benn, the other key cabinet supporters of Miliband, will also expect promotions. Meanwhile, Peter Hain, who missed out on election by just three votes, is almost certain to be one of Ed Miliband's five discretionary appointments. Miliband has already promised that a Welsh MP will become shadow secretary of state for Wales later today, after none of the eight Welsh candidates won election. Hain, who held the post in the last Labour government and was an early backer of Miliband, is the obvious choice.

Elsewhere, Andy Burnham, whose stock rose during the leadership contest, may be kept at Health, where he can lead the charge against the coalition's NHS reforms. Douglas Alexander, who served as International Development Secretary in the last Labour government, is the obvious candidate for the foreign affairs portfolio. Liam Byrne, one of the few shadow cabinet members with private-sector experience, is said to want to take over as shadow business secretary, with works and pensions also a possibility. Finally, we can expect Alan Johnson, one of the few remaining "big beasts", and Tessa Jowell to be handed significant jobs, not least as a gesture of respect to the party's Blairite wing.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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