Pat McFadden is the new shadow Europe minister. Photo: Getty
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Who went where in Labour’s mini-reshuffle?

Ed Miliband has reshuffled the lower tiers of his frontbench team.

There have been rumours for a couple of weeks that Ed Miliband was due to reshuffle team. During the party conference season, it was thought that he would be making this move the week following the Clacton by-election.

However, his frontbench team remained intact, perhaps as a sensible stabilising measure following Labour’s surprisingly narrow win in the Heywood and Middleton by-election and the ensuing mutterings of dissatisfaction from the PLP. Though a reshuffle was only ever rumoured, Tory sources were less kind about this apparent turnaround. One smiled: “he’s bottled it”.

But yesterday evening, Miliband did deliver a mini-reshuffle of the lower tiers of his shadow frontbench. This was triggered by Rushanara Ali, who resigned her position in the shadow education team over the Commons advocating military action in Iraq.

Who went where?

 

Pat McFadden

MP for Wolverhampton South East.

 

McFadden, who served as a business minister under Gordon Brown and was briefly shadow business secretary in Labour’s first five months in opposition in 2010, has been appointed shadow minister for Europe.

He worked as an adviser to Tony Blair both when he was in opposition and government, and became his political secretary in 2002. He was elected for Wolverhampton South East in 2005.

McFadden is respected as an intelligent, and occasionally critical, voice in the party. It has surprised some over the years that Miliband has so long declined to appoint him to the frontbench.

The shadow Europe brief has been a tough one for Labour MPs to hold, because at first there was the need to prevaricate over the EU referendum issue – and now there’s the Ukip factor tempting politicians from all sides of the House to think before they praise the European Union.

McFadden – who knows the policy area well – is a strong advocate of Britain’s EU membership, and condemns the "call for more isolation". He is in favour of measured change in Europe with long-term aims, rather than for electoral advantage. His appointment represents Labour’s preparation to fight the issue with levelheadedness.

He commented:

I’m delighted to be joining the front bench at this crucial time.

I want to make the hard-headed, patriotic case for both Britain in Europe and for change in Europe so that it works for working people.

Labour believes that Europe can and must be made to work better for Britain but we understand that the right road for Britain is change in Europe, not exit from Europe.

 

Gareth Thomas

MP for Harrow West

 

Thomas has moved from the shadow Europe brief to become shadow minister for the Middle East and North Africa in Miliband’s shadow foreign affairs team.

This isn’t his first foray into foreign affairs. In the last two years of the Labour government, he served as an international development minister.

 

Ian Lucas

MP for Wrexham

 

Lucas leaves his shadow foreign affairs brief to join Vernon Coaker’s shadow defence team covering international security strategy.

Before his appointment as a shadow foreign minister in 2011, Lucas mainly held business-based briefs. He served as a minister for business and regulatory reform in 2009-10.

 

 

Yvonne Fovargue

MP for Makerfield

 

Fovargue moves over from defence to education, replacing Ali as shadow minister for young people.

It’s worth noting that Miliband may feel compelled to have another reshuffle before the election, following his intention to build a shadow cabinet that is 50 per cent women.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.