Harriet Harman with Ed Miliband at the Labour conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Exclusive: Senior shadow cabinet members felt "shut out" from Labour election campaign

Sources say senior figures such as Harriet Harman, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper were not given the chance to make high-profile interventions.

In recent weeks, there has been much briefing from Labour sources to the effect that some members of the shadow cabinet (particularly the more experienced ones) haven't been pulling their weight. As I reported yesterday, one senior MP told me that some had effectively "gone on strike". The criticism is that the lack of involvement from some shadow cabinet ministers left Ed Miliband overburdened as he made repeated solo policy announcements. "On the grid it was all Ed, Ed, Ed. There was no one else on it," one figure comments.

But others in the party offer a contrasting take. They suggest that senior shadow cabinet members such as Harriet Harman, Ed Balls, Tristram Hunt and Yvette Cooper wanted to play a more visible role in the campaign but simply weren't given the opportunity to do so. As a result, they were left to devote their time to local trips away from the cameras and low-level speeches and interventions. "There was an absence of women on the campaign trail with Ed. We need to put it right for next year," one source said, expressing surprise at how few members (with the exception of Rachel Reeves) shared a platform with Miliband. "The reality is that you only achieve cut-through when it's a joint intervention with the leader," the source added.

While the focus on Miliband is regarded as inevitable in an increasingly presidential age, many in Labour believe that the party's other big beasts deserve greater prominence. One theory is that Harman (who, as deputy leader, would be expected to play a key role) has been sidelined after a much-publicised falling out at the end of last year with Douglas Alexander. Harman reportedly "went crazy" at the shadow foreign secretary over his running of the party's general election campaign and the lack of responsibility given to women. "She feels shut out from it all," a source told me.With the local election campaign treated as a "dry run" for the general election by Alexander, the question is how and whether this will change before May 2015.

Meanwhile, several MPs have told me today that they would like Miliband to reshuffle his team at the first possible opportunity.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR