How to know who's heading up in the shadow cabinet reshuffle

Have they passed the Question Time test?

It is an open secret in Westminster that Ed Miliband will hold a shadow cabinet reshuffle at some point before the Labour conference, so who is line for promotion? One Labour MP told me that a good rule of thumb is to look at those who have recently appeared on Question Time (often for the first time), regarded as a useful test of their media abilities. 

Recent Labour panellists have included shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker (23 May), shadow immigration ministers Chris Bryant (16 May) and shadow climate change minister Luciana Berger (25 April), all of whom other sources have told me are likely to be promoted in the reshuffle. Stella Creasy (currently shadow minister for crime prevention), who has already appeared several times on the programme, is another expected to move up the ranks. 

MPs also suggest that Rachel Reeves, currently on maternity leave, is likely to shadow "a major spending department" when she returns, with Chris Leslie, who has acted as Ed Balls's deputy in her absence, possibly replacing her as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury. 

Incidentally, a senior Labour figure told me last week that Alistair Darling would almost certainly have to return to the frontline after "saving the Union" next year (Darling is chair of the Better Together campaign) but not as shadow chancellor (rightly so, in my view; Ed Balls's performance yesterday showed why he is such an asset for Labour). The source suggested he could take on the role of party chair, one of the posts currently held by Harriet Harman. Here's what Darling had to say when recently asked by Andrew Neil on The Sunday Politics if he would "come and help the battle to give the Labour Party economic credibility".

I am very confident that my colleagues, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, are very aware of what they have to do and they will do it. Because we owe it to the people that support us and the people we’ve yet to win over to put forward an argument that is going to convince people. Heavens, you know, you rightly said this government is in one terrible mess at the moment as far as the economy is concerned. They’re way off track, none of their plans are stacking up, they’re losing credibility. We need to have a compelling alternative. There is one, and I will be helping my colleagues do that. But at the moment, for the next 18 months, you know where I am.

To translate, he's ruling nothing out. 

Luciana Berger, currently shadow climate change minister, is one of those in line for promotion.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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