New faces get key roles as Miliband unveils Shadow Cabinet

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The MP Tom Watson won a dramatic promotion to the Shadow Cabinet yesterday in recognition of his dogged campaign to expose phone hacking as Ed Miliband moved to give Labour's top team a sharper edge.

He installed new faces in the key health and education posts and promoted five MPs elected for the first time in 2010. They include Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna, both 32, who were handed prominent posts marking them out as the party's fastest-rising stars.

Mr Watson resigned as a minister more than two years ago to pursue claims that News of the World journalists had routinely hacked mobile phones. He is rewarded with the post of Labour's deputy chair and campaign co-ordinator, but will retain his seat on the Commons Culture Select Committee, which is investigating phone hacking.

Mr Miliband was free to remould his team after pushing through a rule change that scrapped elections for the Shadow Cabinet amongst Labour MPs.

The nine new names include Stephen Twigg, the former Schools Minister who lost his parliamentary seat in 2005 but returned last year. He was made shadow Education Secretary in succession to Andy Burnham, who takes over the health brief. Mr Burnham will spearhead Labour's opposition to Andrew Lansley's controversial NHS reforms.

Ms Reeves, a former economist, was promoted to shadow Chief Treasury Secretary, where she will oppose the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander who is overseeing spending cuts and reform of public sector pay and pensions. Mr Umunna, who along with Ms Reeves has been tipped as a future Labour leader, was appointed shadow Business Secretary, where he will have to prove his mettle against Vince Cable. He takes over from John Denham, who steps down from the Shadow Cabinet.

Another member of Labour's "Class of 2010", Margaret Curran, was made shadow Scottish Secretary with the task of leading the fight-back against the resurgent Scottish National Party.

Two other MPs landed plum jobs after only 18 months in the Commons. Liz Kendall was made shadow minister for Care and Older People and Michael Dugher a shadow minister without portfolio. The Conservatives described the reshuffle as a Brownite takeover, claiming that almost two-thirds of the Shadow Cabinet are known supporters of Gordon Brown. Labour dismissed that as "nonsense", saying the faction-fighting of the Blair-Brown era is over and that Mr Miliband had appointed people on merit.

The Labour leader's main goal was to sharpen up the performance of his top team after criticism that it was not landing enough blows on the Government. He also wants to ensure a more co-ordinated assault on the Coalition. "We have been a collection of individuals rather than playing as a team," one opposition frontbencher admitted.

Mr Miliband said: "My decision to appoint half a dozen members of the 2010 intake shows the talent that Labour has and the way in which this new generation can join us in taking Labour's agenda forward."

The New Faces in the Shadow Cabinet

Tom Watson

Labour Party Deputy Chair and Campaign Co-ordinator

Confidant of Gordon Brown who fought a lonely battle against News International on phone-hacking. Is now a Labour hero; his name was cheered at the party conference.

Stephen Twigg

Shadow Education Secretary

Defeated Michael Portillo in true-blue Enfield Southgate in 1997, but lost the seat in 2005. Returned as MP for Liverpool West Derby. Former schools minister.

Vernon Coaker

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary

Former deputy headmaster who was police minister in the last Government. Ally of Ed Balls, and popular within the party.

Margaret Curran

Shadow Scottish Secretary

Only an MP for 17 months, but has long experience of Labour politics in Scotland. Was defeated at Glasgow East by-election in 2008, but won it back in 2010.

Liz Kendall

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People

Has a background as special adviser (to Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt) and policy wonk, regarded as one of the brightest of the 2010 intake.

Michael Dugher

Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)

Earned his spurs as Gordon Brown's spokesman. Born and bred in South Yorkshire and now MP for Barnsley East. Strong union links.

Emily Thornberry

Shadow Attorney General

Former barrister who has been MP for Islington South and Finsbury for six years. Previously a health spokeswoman.

Rachel Reeves

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

There was little doubt Rachel Reeves would be handed a financial brief. Before her election, she worked as an economist at the Bank of England (specialising in quantitative easing), the British Embassy in Washington and the Bank of Scotland. Her husband is a senior Treasury official.

She is by instinct a New Labour-style moderniser, but is respected across the party and persuaded Gordon Brown to write the foreword last year to her book Why Vote Labour?

Ed Miliband brought her on to his front bench as a pension spokesman at his first opportunity last year.

Chuka Umunna

Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary

Even before his election as Streatham MP last year, he was being labelled a "Labour leader-in-waiting" and the "British Barack Obama". Of Nigerian, Irish and English descent, Umunna becomes the first male black member of a Labour shadow Cabinet. He is on the centre-left of the party and a strong critic of the Iraq war which he condemned as a "massive, era-defining mistake". Ed Miliband appointed him as his Parliamentary Private Secretary in October and has now given him the task of opposing Vince Cable.

...those moving jobs

Eight Shadow Cabinet members are to take on new or altered roles. The most eye-catching move is Andy Burnham's switch from education to health. Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, is exchanging her international development post for the job of shadow Culture Secretary. It is a direct swap with Ivan Lewis, who is demoted to shadow International Secretary. Angela Eagle becomes shadow Commons Leader. She takes over from Hilary Benn, who is now shadow Communities Secretary in succession to Caroline Flint. Tessa Jowell loses her Cabinet Office remit to Jon Trickett.

...and those moving on

John Healey, who is quitting after a lacklustre spell as shadow Health Secretary, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and teenage son.

John Denham is retiring as the shadow Business Secretary to take the unpaid role of Ed Miliband's parliamentary secretary. He is to step down as an MP at the next election. Shaun Woodward, the former Tory MP who defected to Labour and became Northern Ireland Secretary, is being replaced in the Ulster brief.

Two women are departing after just one year – Meg Hillier (shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, right) and Ann McKechin (shadow Scottish Secretary). Baroness Scotland of Asthal is being replaced as shadow Attorney-General.

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