Strang is only new face in Shadow Cabinet: Nicholas Timmins and Donald Macintyre analyse last night's results

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Indy Politics
GAVIN STRANG, 50, yesterday became the one new face on the Shadow Cabinet in a result that left modernisers among the new intake of Labour MPs bemoaning the conservative nature of the parliamentary electorate.

Mr Strang, MP for Edinburgh East since 1970, is an agriculture spokesman, comes from the party's left and campaigned heavily on his record as one of the few remaining Labour MPs with ministerial experience, having been a junior energy and agriculture minister in the 1974-79 Labour government.

A sharp-featured, dark-haired, idealist, son of a farmer and former chairman of the Labour MPs CND group, he has performed well in his brief, but his prescence as the one genuinely new face left MPs who had hoped for a bigger change disappointed. 'There is no dynamic new Labour team, simply a dynamic new leader,' one of the 1992 intake of MPs said. 'It is a no- change Shadow Cabinet.'

Another MP who had considered standing this year said: 'It shows what a profoundly conservative electorate we have. Change comes very slowly in the Labour party. We can only hope it presages change next year.'

Joan Lestor, Labour's children's spokesman who reclaimed her Shadow Cabinet place last year, Ann Taylor, whose performance as education spokesman has been heavily criticised, and Michael Meacher, all of whom had been tipped as possible losers, all survived, while Jack Cunningham, who last year came bottom of those elected rose to 10th place.

In the election for chief whip, Derek Foster, the great survivor, saw off yet another challenge, the double-barrelled attack from Peter Kilfoyle, the Liverpool Walton MP, and from Dick Caborn, John Prescott's campaign manager, failing to force a second ballot by 20 votes.

Signs that change may be on the way came, however, in reasonably high scores for some among the younger intake: Brian Wilson, Labour's rail spokesman registering 86 votes at his first attempt, one ahead of Nick Brown, a member of the Treasury team who was also standing for the first time.

They, along with Hilary Armstrong, John Smith's PPS and former national executive member who scored 93, Clare Short and Ann Clwyd on 94, Alun Michael, Tony Blair's deputy at home affairs who scored 81 and Derek Fatchett, Robin Cook's trade and industry deputy, with 88 will all be seen as knocking on the door for next year's elections. It appeared that last year's backlash against the requirement that each MP votes for at least four women had largely evaporated.

Nonetheless, some MPs publicly expressed disappointment, Denis MacShane, the Rotherham by-election victor, said: 'It is the same safe, competent team. I am disappointed that no one from the 1987 or 1992 intake has made the breakthrough.'

The only real casualty in the election was Tom Clarke, the overseas aid spokesman, who was widely expected to lose his place after an outspoken attack on 'McCarthyite' complaints about alleged nepotism and sectarian favouritism within the local council during the Monklands by-election which followed John Smith's death.

The results also suggest a slight loosening in the traditional underlying alliances of regional and left- right groupings, many of which have little to do with perceived merit. In horse-trading which went on as late as Tuesday night, however, some prominent candidates were still touting for 'swaps' of lists of supporters in the hope of maximising their own backing.

One candidate reported that he had refused a request to try and commit his own backers to supporting another specific rival candidate in return for reciprocal support. 'I was not going to insult my own supporters by telling them that part of the deal was that I told them who else to support as well,' the candidate said.