Leading article: A new-look Opposition that must show itself worthy of the name

Share
Related Topics

There is much that is positive about the new Shadow Cabinet, and Ed Miliband deserves credit for the dispatch with which he made some hard decisions.

The election for membership inevitably places constraints on the leader's choice, and the results of this particular election only compounded them. But this is a team with a genuinely fresh look; Brownite and Blairite shadows have largely been banished. There are more women in senior posts, and Sadiq Khan, the up-and-coming Muslim MP, becomes shadow Justice Secretary.

The most crucial decision, however, concerned the post of shadow Chancellor, both because there was one obvious, but contentious, candidate and because the economy is where the key battles will be fought in coming months. In appointing Alan Johnson, Mr Miliband avoided two obvious pitfalls. Ed Balls, who made little secret of his ambitions in that direction, would have been vulnerable to taunts about his association with the last government, with Gordon Brown personally, and with the financial crisis (whichever fitted best the point in hand). But to appoint his wife, Yvette Cooper, to the post would have risked perpetual speculation about a new "psychodrama" of the sort the party is only emerging from after the Miliband duel.

As a minister, Mr Johnson was adept at shutting down controversy (and bad headlines) in the successive departments he ran. He also inspired confidence as a Commons performer. The prospect of the working-class boy made good – an image he has cultivated – parrying George Osborne, ex-public school and Bullingdon Club, offers a tantalising study in contrasts. How the stolid, reliable Mr Johnson will acquit himself against the politically nimble and fluent Mr Osborne, however, is a question that awaits its answer.

Mr Balls, who came third in the poll, and Ms Cooper, who easily topped it, have each been allocated a great office of state, while being placed conceptually as far as possible away from each other. He is shadowing the Home Secretary, she the Foreign Secretary. Thus Mr Miliband also avoided the "cat-fight" accusations that might have come his way had he appointed Ms Cooper to shadow Theresa May, but it must be asked whether foreign affairs necessarily plays to her particular strengths.

As shadow Home Secretary, Mr Balls will find himself up against Ms May on combating crime and police reform, but also on immigration. During the Labour leadership campaign, he criticised Gordon Brown for not restricting arrivals from the new EU states. Even if migration is an unpopular cause, however, the party should not leave it to the Liberal Democrats to defend migrants' rights. Mr Balls must negotiate tricky territory.

The gauge of how good a job Mr Miliband has done in forming his team, however, will be how effectively it manages to oppose, collectively and individually, a Coalition that has grown in confidence. Labour did better than might have been expected during its leadership interregnum, partly because ministers were shadowing their own former portfolios. Now, all new to their jobs, they must challenge ministers who have a head start. This will not be easy, but with the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review to be announced in 10 days' time, the country is already crying out for a strong opposition.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Marketing Manager

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Daily Prophet newspaper - closer to fact than fiction?  

The delicious irony of JK Rowling's new Harry Potter story and our muggle media

Anna Leszkiewicz
 

This is why I am among the thousands leaving teaching this month

Chris Sloggett
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil