Promote North East MPs, Ed Miliband urged

Labour leader Ed Miliband was urged to make more use of talented North East MPs as all the parties reshuffled their teams

Labour leader Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband

A long-serving North East politician has urged Labour leader Ed Miliband to consider promoting some of the region’s up and coming MPs.

Nick Brown, a former member of the Cabinet under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, was speaking as Mr Miliband prepared to announce more changes to his front-bench team today.

The Labour leader last night reshaped his shadow cabinet ready for the general election, while more junior positions will be announced today.

Mr Brown, a Newcastle MP who twice served as Chief Whip, said: “Ed set out his stall very strongly at the Labour Party conference and he has clearly thought very carefully about the right people to strengthen his front bench team. The North East has some very able front-benchers just below Shadow Cabinet level and there are a number of candidates for promotion.”

Possible contenders could include Chi Onwurah, currently a junior shadow business minister, and Catherine McKinnell, who is in Labour’s shadow Treasury team, who could be considered for more senior posts.

Both MPs represent Newcastle seats and entered the House of Commons in 2010.

Labour sources said the reshuffle of the shadow front bench was designed to bring fresh blood into Labour’s team - including newcomers to the House of Commons - and to promote more women.

But critics accused Mr Miliband of purging “Blairites” from the party.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown
 

MP Liam Byrne, who had become a hate figure for some activists because of his tough stance on welfare reform, left the Shadow Cabinet and was replaced by Rachel Reeves.

He seen as a Blairite, as is Stephen Twigg, the former Shadow Education spokesman who was replaced by TV historian Tristram Hunt,

And former Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy, another Blairite, was moved to Shadow International Development secretary, a move seen as a demotion.

Labour sources pointed out said 44% of the shadow cabinet were now women, and 31% were from the 2010 Commons intake.

A source said: “I think you will find that we have gone a lot past the days of factionalism,” adding that Mr Murphy remained a member of the shadow cabinet while Mr Byrne and Mr Twigg were both happy with their new positions.

Maria Eagle, a strong supporter of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project, was switched to shadow environment secretary - raising the prospect that the party’s attitude to the scheme could be about to change.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham kept his job, despite opposition attempts to blame him for NHS failings under the last Labour government.

Meanwhile, David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also reshuffled the Government front benches, but only one Cabinet post was affected.

Senior Liberal Democrats were among the biggest casualties of a coalition reshuffle, with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Home Office minister Jeremy Browne both losing their jobs.

Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg wielded the knife as David Cameron moved to promote more women and northern MPs to his Conservative team.

With just a year to go before the crucial referendum on independence north of the border, Mr Moore’s Cabinet post was handed to Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael while Mr Browne was replaced by transport minister Norman Baker.

Mr Cameron avoided changes to his Cabinet - but handed promotions to women MPs including Esther McVey, who was pushed up the ranks at the Department for Work and Pensions to become employment minister, while Nicky Morgan went from assistant whip to Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

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