Labour reshuffle: Miliband has rewarded the outriders for his project

Tristram Hunt and Gloria De Piero, two notionally "Blairite" figures, distinguished themselves by engaging with Miliband's political and ideological themes.

Ever since his election as Labour leader in 2010, Ed Miliband has often appeared a lonely figure. Few of his original shadow cabinet voted for him and many have seemed reluctant to engage with the defining themes of his leadership such as "responsible capitalism", "predistribution" and "one nation". 

"I am my own outrider," he has often privately remarked with a mixture of pride and regret. But one of the aims of the reshuffle was to ensure that this is no longer the case. Rather than punishing "the Blairites", as the Tories would have it, Miliband rewarded those who have engaged with his political and ideological project. It is notable that both Tristram Hunt (promoted to shadow education secretary) and Gloria De Piero (promoted to shadow minister for women and equalities) contributed chapters to the recent book One Nation: power, hope, community, regarded in the party as the founding text of the Milibandites. While notionally "Blairite" figures (who voted for David in the 2010 leadership contest), they have sought to give greater definition to his intellectual themes. Expect promotions for other contributors such as Dan Jarvis, Rushanara Ali and Kate Green when Miliband reshuffles his junior shadow ministerial team today. 

At the same time, the Labour leader rewarded his original supporters for their loyalty. Rachel Reeves was promoted from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury to shadow work and pensions secretary, Sadiq Khan, his leadership campaign manager, remained shadow justice secretary (the post he has held since 2010 and to which he is committed) and Hilary Benn, whose alleged lethargy had prompted calls for his removal, was left in place as shadow communities secretary. 

One final point worth noting is that "the Blairites" - Stephen Twigg, Liam Byrne and Jim Murphy - all chose to accept demotions, rather than leaving the shadow cabinet and seeking to wield influence on the backbenches. That is an acknowledgement of Miliband's significantly strengthened position. Over the summer he often appeared desperately weak; in office but not in power. But after defining the conference season, he wields new authority. By remaining in the tent, these big beasts have signalled their confidence that Labour can win the next election and that they will serve in Miliband's team. 

Newly appointed Labour shadow cabinet ministers Gloria de Piero, Tristram Hunt and Emma Reynolds take part in a photocall in London yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.