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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.


“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.


It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:

“BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG.”

Applause, cheers, and even some tears.


But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.