Ed Miliband won the first round of his battle to modernise Labour's traditional practices last night when the party's MPs voted overwhelmingly to allow him to choose his own Shadow Cabinet.
At present, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) elects the Shadow Cabinet every two years and the party leader then allocates the posts. Mr Miliband, who has described the elections as a distraction, wants to sharpen up the performance of his top team and ensure they spend less time lobbying for the votes of backbenchers.
Last night his proposed reform was approved by a margin of 196 votes to 41. The turnout among Labour MPs was 92 per cent.
Mr Miliband said: "This is an excellent result for the party. We have an important job to do in holding the Government to account and preparing for the next election. To do that job properly we need to spend our time talking to the public and not ourselves. Labour under my leadership will be a party that looks outwards and not inwards."
The move needs to be approved by Labour's National Executive Committee this month and its annual conference in September.
After that, Mr Miliband will be free to reshuffle his frontbench team whenever he wants. Although aides played down the prospect of a shake-up immediately after the conference, the Labour leader is expected to reshape his Shadow Cabinet to give fast-track promotions to the "new generation" of MPs he would want to see in his first cabinet if he wins power.
Speculation is building at Westminster about which members might be dropped or moved to a less prominent post. Those whose performances have been criticised by colleagues include Caroline Flint, the shadow Communities Secretary, John Healey, the shadow Health Secretary, and Maria Eagle, the shadow Transport Secretary.
One or more older hands might be recalled to frontline politics to provide some ballast. They could include Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former lord chancellor, and David Blunkett, the former home secretary and work and pensions secretary.
Mr Miliband has said he would welcome a comeback by his brother David, the former foreign secretary, who stood down after Ed pipped him to the Labour leadership last year. But David is said to have no regrets about his decision to return to the back benches to limit the number of episodes in the Miliband family "soap opera".
The front-runners for the front bench
Gloria De Piero MP for Ashfield. Backed David Miliband in leadership contest. Appointed to Labour frontbench by Ed Miliband.
Tristram Hunt MP for Stoke Central. Former adviser to Lord Sainsbury, who nominated David Miliband for Labour leadership.
Rachel Reeves The first of the new wave of MPs to be marked out for great things after becoming MP for Leeds West last year.
Chuka Umunna Former employment lawyer who was on Ed Miliband's leadership team. Critic of Iraq war and New Labour.
Michael Dugher MP for Barnsley East. Backed Ed Balls for Labour leadership. Ed Miliband's parliamentary private secretary.
Lord Falconer Tony Blair's former Lord Chancellor. Backed David Miliband in last year's contest but urged the party to rally behind Ed.