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17 June 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 5:42am

Why is Hilary Benn doing PMQs?

What's happening?

By Anoosh Chakelian

Today in parliament, George Osborne will go up against Hilary Benn in PMQs.

What is going on? Has there been a coup? A very drab, orderly coup?

No.

David Cameron is making a nuisance of himself in Europe, so Osborne (who was appointed First Secretary of State, a sort of Deputy PM position, after the election) is standing in for him.

He can’t go up against Harriet Harman (who always used to deputise), because she is currently Acting Leader of the Labour party. So he has to go up against the next most senior person on Labour’s frontbench. Which is… Hilary Benn?

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According to Labour bods, Benn is unofficially Harman’s deputy, although there’s been no formal shadow cabinet ruling on this.

Benn is shadow foreign secretary but was only shuffled into that position hastily post-election, when everyone was shunted up and around following Ed Miliband and Ed Balls’s departure from the shadow cabinet.

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Foreign Secretary, Chancellor and Home Secretary are three of the four Great Offices of State (the fourth is Prime Minister), so anyone shadowing these roles would technically be in line to go up against Osborne.

It can’t be the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, because she’s running for the leadership. And Chris Leslie, who’s now shadow chancellor, is a less likely choice because he is not as longstanding a member of shadow cabinet as Benn. As one shadow cabinet member put it to me, “he’s sort of got that elder statesman thing about him, and the name helps”.