Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who were the winners and losers in Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle?

The 2015 intake, and Rebecca Long-Bailey in particular, did well. 

Who flourished, and who foundered, in Jeremy Corbyn’s fourth shadow cabinet reshuffle?

As so often, the 2015 intake were the big winners, with all of the new appointments coming from the new batch. Peter Dowd, MP for Bootle, comes in as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Christina Rees is made shadow secretary of state for Wales, and the biggest winner is Rebecca Long-Bailey, who replaces Clive Lewis at business, energy and industrial strategy.    

The surprise loser is Jon Trickett, who loses his post as campaign coordinator. Trickett had been one of the trio of Corbyn supporters – the other two being Diane Abbott and John McDonnell – who attends the 4pm strategy meetings, and a vital cog in that machine.

While he will remain a key ally, I’m told that he found working with Karie Murphy, Corbyn’s office manager, a strain. Things had degenerated to the point that he had stopped attending meetings to avoid her, including the vital 30 January summit on that three-line whip. While he will continue to work in the shadow cabinet, and the NEC, this parting of the ways suits both sides.

Lewis’ resignation, coupled with a rumour that Corbyn has revealed his departure date to his close ally, has everyone speculating about the Labour leadership again. Like Christmas, it comes earlier every year, but I wouldn’t get the tinsel out of the cupboard just yet and nor would I bet on Lewis to be top of the tree when all is said and done.

Any candidate other than the leader has to get the support of 15 per cent of their colleagues in the Westminster and European Parliament – that’s 38 in total. Labour does tend to work to a longer learning curve than other parties but the one thing you can be certain of is that no-one is going to be lending nominations to rival candidates this time.

There will be an attempt to lower that threshold to five per cent at Labour party conference, which would mean that just 13 MPs would be needed to get a candidate on the ballot. But the path from proposing that motion to passing it on the conference floor is long.

If the Corbynsceptics can keep control of the Conference Arrangements Committee, which is likely, they won’t even let it escape onto the conference floor unless they are completely certain they can kill it there. And as far as the battle for control in local parties is concerned, the battle between Corbynites and Corbynsceptics is far more even than Corbyn’s two landslides would suggest, not least because many of those who voted for Corbyn in 2016 did so because they disliked the attempt to remove him and the candidate offered, not because they wanted to reshape the Labour party from top to bottom.

For the Corbynites, it is Catch-22: if they had the organisational strength in local parties for a rule change they wouldn’t need one, as the threat of deselection would be enough to rustle up the signatures. But, at the moment, they have neither. Corbyn would never voluntarily hand back control of the party to his opponents, so until there is a rule change, any talk that he has planned his retirement should be treated with extreme scepticism.

A lot can change between now and the autumn. Even so, while there are more than 13 Corbynite MPs, they can only sign a candidate’s ballot paper once. (Just think back to 2015: there were more than 35 Blairite MPs, but of Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Mary Creagh, only Kendall made it to the ballot paper.)

As I wrote back in November, Long-Bailey is now seen as the best hope for the succession as far as the party’s Corbynite wing is concerned. Lewis’ second home is on the soft left aka the parliamentary Labour party’s revived Tribune group (now with a WhatsApp group, the essential ingredient of factional plotting in the PLP these days). But they have their own wide pool of candidates, with Keir Starmer currently top of the pack as far as that group is concerned. There is a lot of potential talent in that group, from Lisa Nandy to Emily Thornberry before any of those MPs will be signing up to the Clive Lewis leadership campaign.

Certainly there is a semi-plausible path to a leadership election this year. But anyone betting on it has to first plot a path to Corbynite victory at Labour party conference and anyone expecting Clive Lewis to leverage his undoubted popularity in the membership to victory thereafter has to come up with the names of 13 Labour MPs without a more congenial candidate on offer. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Show Hide image

On civil liberties, David Davis has become a complete hypocrite – and I'm not sure he even knows it

The Brexit minster's stance shows a man not overly burdened with self-awareness.

In 2005, David Davis ran for the Tory leadership. He was widely assumed to be the front-runner and, as frontrunners in Tory leadership campaigns have done so enthusiastically throughout modern history, he lost.

The reason I bring up this ancient history is because it gives me an excuse to remind you of this spectacularly ill-judged photoshoot:

“And you're sure this doesn't make me look a bit sexist?”
Image: Getty

Obviously it’s distressing to learn that, as recently as October 2005, an ostensibly serious politician could have thought that drawing attention to someone else’s boobs was a viable electoral strategy. (Going, one assumes, for that all important teenage boy vote.)

But what really strikes me about that photo is quite how pleased with himself Davis looks. Not only is he not thinking to himself, “Is it possible that this whole thing was a bad idea?” You get the distinct impression that he’s never had that thought in his life.

This impression is not dispelled by the interview he gave to the Telegraph‘s Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester three months earlier. (Hat tip to Tom Hamilton for bringing it to my attention.) It’s an amazing piece of work – I’ve read it twice, and I’m still not sure if the interviewers are in on the joke – so worth reading in its entirety. But to give you a flavour, here are some highlights:

He has a climbing wall in his barn and an ice-axe leaning against his desk. Next to a drinks tray in his office there is a picture of him jumping out of a helicopter. Although his nose has been broken five times, he still somehow manages to look debonair. (...)

To an aide, he shouts: “Call X - he’ll be at MI5,” then tells us: “You didn’t hear that. I know lots of spooks.” (...)

At 56, he comes – as he puts it – from “an older generation”. He did not change nappies, opting instead to teach his children to ski and scuba-dive to make them brave. (...)

“I make all the important decisions about World War Three, she makes the unimportant ones about where we’re going to live.”

And my personal favourite:

When he was demoted by IDS, he hit back, saying darkly: “If you’re hunting big game, you must make sure you kill with the first shot.”

All this, I think, tells us two things. One is that David Davis is not a man who is overly burdened with self-doubt. The other is that he probably should be once in a while, because bloody hell, he looks ridiculous, and it’s clear no one around him has the heart to tell him.

Which brings us to this week’s mess. On Monday, we learned that those EU citizens who choose to remain in Britain will need to apply for a listing on a new – this is in no way creepy – “settled status” register. The proposals, as reported the Guardian, “could entail an identity card backed up by entry on a Home Office central database or register”. As Brexit secretary, David Davis is the man tasked with negotiating and delivering this exciting new list of the foreign.

This is odd, because Davis has historically been a resolute opponent of this sort of nonsense. Back in June 2008, he resigned from the Tory front bench and forced a by-election in his Haltemprice & Howden constituency, in protest against the Labour government’s creeping authoritarianism.

Three months later, when Labour was pushing ID cards of its own, he warned that the party was creating a database state. Here’s the killer quote:

“It is typical of this government to kickstart their misguided and intrusive ID scheme with students and foreigners – those who have no choice but to accept the cards – and it marks the start of the introduction of compulsory ID cards for all by stealth.”

The David Davis of 2017 better hope that the David Davis of 2008 doesn’t find out what he’s up to, otherwise he’s really for it.

The Brexit secretary has denied, of course, that the government’s plan this week has anything in common with the Labour version he so despised. “It’s not an ID card,” he told the Commons. “What we are talking about here is documentation to prove you have got a right to a job, a right to residence, the rest of it.” To put it another way, this new scheme involves neither an ID card nor the rise of a database state. It’s simply a card, which proves your identity, as registered on a database. Maintained by the state.

Does he realise what he’s doing? Does the man who once quit the front bench to defend the principle of civil liberties not see that he’s now become what he hates the most? That if he continues with this policy – a seemingly inevitable result of the Brexit for which he so enthusiastically campaigned – then he’ll go down in history not as a campaigner for civil liberties, but as a bloody hypocrite?

I doubt he does, somehow. Remember that photoshoot; remember the interview. With any other politician, I’d assume a certain degree of inner turmoil must be underway. But Davis does not strike me as one who is overly prone to that, either.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

0800 7318496