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Who’s up for a job in Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet?

Yvette Cooper has been widely tipped for a role.

By Stephen Bush

Labour’s forward advance means that for the first time in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the parliamentary Labour party is almost wholly united behind him.

That means that the Labour leader will have a far larger swathe of MPs to pick from when he reshuffles the shadow cabinet. (Due tomorrow, so as not to crowd out the morale-boosting photographs of Corbyn with the bumper crop of 49 new Labour MPs.)

Who will be in? Although there is a great deal of excitement in the press about a possible return to the shadow Home Office brief for Yvette Cooper, I’m told that is “not on the cards”.

“Jeremy has an immense sense of loyalty,” one well-placed source tells me, “he’s not going to remove people who have stuck by him, including those with very different politics, to accommodate others who have come to the party late.”

Another person close to the leader’s office observed that it would be “a slap in the face” to the likes of Barry Gardiner, Jonny Reynolds and Jon Ashworth, who have stayed in the shadow cabinet and put their shoulders to the wheel despite being from the centre-left, not the left, if they were moved to make way for the likes of Cooper.

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The Labour leader is not minded to create vacancies by sacking those who have put their shoulders to the wheel, although a few older hands who served out of obligation, such as Teresa Pearce, the shadow communities secretary, have asked to return to the backbenches. Grahame Morris, too, is unwell and will be recused from duty.  

As well as the central trio of Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, Angela Rayner is immovable at shadow education and Jon Ashworth a near-certainty to remain at shadow health. Former Corbynsceptics will be welcomed in, but to junior posts and to fill existing vacancies.Abbott, who despite having her campaign marred by several high-profile gaffes in interviews and being recused from the Shadow Cabineet due to illness, remains Corbyn’s closest and longest-standing ally, and will continue to play a major role. 

There will also be a determined effort to move on a generation. Centre-left MPs will be drawn from the Ashworth generation of 30 and 40-somethings, rather than appointing old warriors. There is a strong appetite in the leader’s office to find a post for Ed Miliband, but the difficulty is finding one that “gets the most out of him”. Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is being shadowed by Rebecca Long-Bailey, a favoured long-term candidate for the succession. McDonnell is of course an essential at shadow Treasury.

There are two posts that are likely to see the return of veterans. The role of shadow Northern Ireland is, due to the stalled executive and the active role of the DUP in sustaining the Conservative government, likely to go to an experienced operator. Vernon Coaker, who held the post under Ed Miliband and Corbyn, and who is regarded by the leader’s office as a straight operator, could make a comeback there.

The other prize job for an old hand is the post of shadow leader of the House, currently held by Valerie Vaz. With the Conservative minority, the post is vital. The leader’s office were surprised to see Andrea Leadsom, who is not regarded to have been a success as environment secretary, moved to the post. There are a number of big beasts who could symbolically show that the party has united behind Corbyn by serving there with experience of the role – Harriet Harman chief among them. But I’m told that the favourite at present is Chris Bryant, who knows the ways of the House better than almost anyone, though Andrew Gwynne, who impressed the leader’s office on the campaign trail, is also favoured. 

But for the most part, continuity, rather than change, will be Corbyn’s watchword when he reshuffles his frontbench tomorrow.

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