Daily catch-up: the perpetuashuffle, special advisers and a view of old London

We are already a week into the new year and we have a lot of catching up to do. But first, the reshuffle

John Rentoul
Thursday 07 January 2016 10:40 GMT

Another view of old London: Somerset House before the Embankment was built (construction began in 1862). Via Culturaltales, with thanks to Sir William Davenant for the attribution: Tomblesons, engraving by H. Winkles, from "80 Picturesque Views of the Thames and Medway".

We are already a week into the new year and we have a lot of catching up to do. First let us dispense with the perpetuashuffle and Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. In the end, there was only one promotion to the shadow cabinet (Emily Thornberry, from junior employment), and one exit, Michael Dugher. Pat McFadden as shadow Europe minister was not a member of the shadow cabinet, and nor was his Pat Glass, his replacement, promoted from junior education. But with three resignations yesterday (Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones), Jeremy Corbyn had five junior shadow ministries to fill. Update: this morning he appointed Kate Hollern (Defence), Jo Stevens (Justice), Andy McDonald (Transport), Angela Rayner (Work and Pensions) and Fabian Hamilton (Foreign). My colleagues Nigel Morris and Oliver Wright have a good account of the behind-the-stairwell machinations of the reshuffle in today's Independent.

• I agree with Jeremy Corbyn in deploring abuse and insult, but sometimes it is done so well that one has to admire the technique, as well as secretly agreeing with the sentiments.

• Labour now has a supporter of one-sided nuclear disarmament as shadow defence secretary for the first time since 1988. A bonus for anyone who can, without Googling, name the last unilateralist Labour defence spokesperson.

The Labour press office put out a release claiming that there were now 17 women and 14 men in the shadow cabinet. This is true only if you allow a bloated cabinet phantome, as Alan Watkins used to call it, of 28 to shadow a real Cabinet of 22, plus three people listed as "attending shadow cabinet". If you count only those shadowing an actual Cabinet post, there are 11 men, including the first five in order of precedence, and 11 women.

• It was a bad reshuffle for the special adviserdom. Dugher, McFadden and Doughty are all former special advisers, and Reynolds was a researcher for James Purnell before he became an MP for his former seat. I am grateful to former special adviser David Mills for pointing this out.

The Prime Minister was asked about special advisers at PMQs yesterday and gave a transparently misleading answer: "There are fewer special advisers under this Government than there were under the last Government." He was referring to the last coalition government, which had an extra 38 Liberal Democrat special advisers in it. The number of Conservative special advisers has gone up from 69 to 96, which is more than the 84 under Labour.

Next time, I will start catching up on all the interesting things that happened over the Christmas break.

• And finally, a welcome to the new year to Moose Allain:

"I was doing OK in the staring contest, until I made one or two glaring mistakes."

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