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How Labour went from Ed to Ed

At shadow cabinet meetings, Miliband acts as chairman and Balls as chief executive.

Miliband was "Iron Ed" in smartly outmanoeuvring the bankers' friend David Cameron over Stephen Hester's £1m welfare handout. The public victory was a relief for the Labour leader after a terrible mauling from the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), when he was "Punchbag Ed". My informant with an abacus counted 17 MPs, union reps and constituency activists criticising Eddie for waving a white flag over Tory spending cuts and embracing lower living standards for dinner ladies. So stormy was the session that the MEP and former EastEnders actor Michael Cashman, this year's chair of the NEC, demanded that details of the row stay within the room.

Quite so. After a shaken Eddie departed, the deputy leader, Harriet Harman, accused the governing body of "stabbing him in the back" and appealed for unity. She's the same Harriet Harperson who conspired to topple Gordon Brown in January 2010.

Cameron the people's toff evidently feels at home in Chequers, the Tudor country house left to the nation by a wealthy, childless couple in 1917 for the enjoyment of prime ministers. Trustees told Brown that he couldn't use it for press conferences and Tony Blair rearranged furniture to pretend a TV interview post-Iraq wasn't filmed at the Buckinghamshire pile. Cameron showed no such reservations when greeting Afghanistan's green-cloaked Hamid Karzai on the doorstep for the cameras before answering questions in a wood-panelled room. One of the Talibrown sniffed that Cameron behaves as if he owns the place. The family of his heiress wife, Samantha, owns estates in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire, so Citizen Dave could probably afford it.

Chuka Umunna is another Labour figure who enjoyed a good bank bonus war, reminding me of an exchange overheard by a radar-lugged snout at last autumn's party conference in Liverpool. Discussing political philosophy, Umunna told a Blairite: "You know, I am not a socialist." The MP didn't and suggested that the shadow business secretary was in the wrong party, as Blair's revised Clause Four, printed on membership cards, states: "The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party." Umunna, I'm told, looked surprised.

Never let it be said that this column doesn't bring you the big political exclusives. Regular readers may recall November's revelation that Cameron's horsey friend from the Chipping Norton set Rebekah Brooks, the fallen, flame-haired mistress of Wapping, would name her daughter Scarlett. So it has come to pass. I declined at the time to name Brooks or to state that the child would be a surrogate (to respect the privacy of both - honestly). Labour MPs, I hear, are jostling to table questions about mother-and-baby facilities in Her Majesty's guest houses.

A Labour frontbencher mutters that his party may have changed leaders without anybody noticing. At shadow cabinet meetings, Ed Miliband acts as chairman and Ed Balls the chief executive calling the shots. Not so much a bloodless coup as a secret switch.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 06 February 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Lucky Dave