Miliband to abolish shadow cabinet elections

Labour leader moves to assert his authority with historic reform.

Ed Miliband has surprised almost everyone tonight by announcing that he will abolish elections to the shadow cabinet. It's one of his boldest moves since becoming leader and will give him the freedom to appoint his own top team.

It's not hard to see why he felt this reform was necessary. Miliband rightly argues that the elections are an unnecessary distraction from holding the government to account and that Labour has been too inward-looking. In addition, as Mehdi recently noted, the performance of the current shadow cabinet has been poor, with too few heavyweights able to come to Miliband's defence. The abolition of the elections will allow Miliband to promote Labour's most impressive new MPs (Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna, Rushanara Ali), to fire underperforming or disloyal figures, and to bring big beasts such as Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and even David Miliband back on to the front bench. One of the most frequent criticisms of Miliband is that he has been unwilling to challenge his own party. This reform addresses that charge head on. Even Tony Blair never dared abolish shadow cabinet elections.

Miliband will address Labour MPs about the changes on Monday night and has asked Tony Lloyd, chair of the PLP, to hold a secret ballot among them before the summer recess. The proposal will then go through the National Executive Committee before finally being put to a vote at the party conference in September.

Update 10:23am: The elder Miliband approves. He's just tweeted: "Well done to Ed for grasping nettle of Shadow Cabinet elections."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.