Shadow Cabinet 'is too Scottish': Labour reshuffle: Fears grow that Scots' strength may deter English voters

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Indy Politics
LABOUR'S new Shadow Cabinet is 'too Scottish' to win over English voters, according to a Scottish Labour MP, writes John Arlidge.

John Reid, MP for Motherwell North, is the first Scottish MP to intervene in the increasingly acrimonious debate surrounding the number of Scots in Labour's front bench team. Following the election of George Robertson, MP for Hamilton, to the Shadow Cabinet, Mr Reid said the party leadership was 'politically unbalanced'.

Offering English voters 'a government which consists of a Scottish Prime Minister, John Smith, a Scottish Chancellor, Gordon Brown, a Scottish Home Secretary, Tony Blair, and a Scottish Social Security Secretary, Donald Dewar, would be politically disadvantageous,' he said. 'The political balance has got to be kept.

'The problem was caused because the 1983 and 1987 intake of MPs was predominantly from the Labour heartlands and because Neil Kinnock, a Welshman, resigned, Gerald Kaufman resigned and Bryan Gould resigned.'

The election of Mr Robertson takes to more than one-third the proportion of Scots in the Shadow Cabinet.

The debate surrounding Scottish 'over-representation' was sparked by Peter Shore, the former cabinet minister, who said Scottish MPs were steeped in 'an almost Nordic political culture' which made it 'difficult indeed to realise the extent of the alienation in middle and southern England that still exists between the Labour Party and the electorate'.

Some MPs fear that Labour risks distancing itself from English voters in the same way that the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher distanced themselves from Scots.

Mike Watson, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, dismissed Mr Reid's remarks. 'I don't think Scots are over-represented on the team which is chosen by the parliamentary Labour Party, which has 49 Scottish MPs,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)