Week 37: Prat – resigning Labour frontbenchers

by Jackie_South on September 16, 2015

Labour_PratThis week, the eight Labour frontbenchers who refused to serve under Jeremy Corbyn win our regular prat award

As I have previously posted, Jeremy Corbyn was not my first choice as Labour leader. I am also concerned about the decision to appoint John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, and that none of the shadow four great offices of state are held by women (despite the claims of having more women in the shadow cabinet than men following some interesting job creation to get the numbers up).

But, other than those significant caveats, Corbyn has put together a surprisingly good shadow cabinet. If you ignore leader and shadow chancellor (I know, you can’t), this is actually a better cabinet than many Blair, Brown and Miliband pulled together. Some of the choices are truly inspired: Jon Trickett at communities (for once a politician that actually knows about running a council (Leeds) in the job), Heidi Alexander at health (a smart woman who has campaigned to keep hospitals open), Angela Eagle at business and Vernon Coaker’s return to Northern Ireland (a smart move given Corbyn and McDonnell’s Sinn Fein sympathies – Coaker is a serious politician respected by the unionists).

Given that, the choice of a number of members of the previous front bench not to serve under Corbyn looks particularly daft. OK, if you have the standing of Yvette Cooper, this won’t dent your reputation much and the door will be open for a future return either under Corbyn or a future leader. But for many of the others, this looks like divisiveness and petulance that both hurts the Labour Party and their own careers.

Take Chris Leslie: he was unlikely to stay as shadow chancellor but having held that job guaranteed him a good post in the shadow cabinet.  But next time round, he will look like a faded has-been as new frontbench members with similar politics make their mark. Similarly, Tristan Hunt – a man you may recall seriously considered running for leader – is unlikely to rise as far again after dropping out. Ditto Shabana Mahmood and Emma Reynolds.

Given her own leadership run, Liz Kendall probably does have some future as the new keeper of the Blairite torch, and Rachel Reeves probably can make her way back. But Chuka Umunna has plumetted in the space of four months from leadership front-runner to a byword for Hamlet-esque indecision: after bailing on his leadership bid after a couple of days, he first said he would serve under Corbyn on Saturday, then changed his mind after a few hours.

So, for failing to support their new leader and crapping on their own careers in the process, the frontbench resigners richly deserve our Prat of the Week award.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth September 17, 2015 at 7:49 am

Some, I think, more prattish than others. Umunna probably ought to see a careers adviser – the media or academia probably have more to offer him than continung to sit in the house.

Kendall at least admitted that she had failed to explain the difference between Blairites and Tories (hint: there isn’t one, really) so I think she ought to have some credit for that. Perhaps she should be co-opted on to the NEC with a brief to mentor the next generation of women Labour MPs.


John Stone September 17, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Kerry mcCarthy could be a good choice too. Especially up against the vacuous wannabe who currently holds the Environment portfolio.


Eddie Kaye September 17, 2015 at 4:17 pm

As a constituent, I was sad to see Rachel Reeves make this decision. The Labour Party is about more than Jeremy Corbyn. She only need look at neighbouring Morley where the despicable Andrea Jenkins turfed out Ed Balls at the GE to see who the real enemy is. The Labour Party needs to get on with its job – beating the Tories and their rancid ideology into opposition. I understand where her reasons may lie – as part of the 2010 intake and in her mid thirties a leader like JC may be a culture shock. However, she has a massive mandate from her constituents who reject the Conservative Party and all it stands for – that should come first, and as part of a strong front bench team she would be better placed.

I have said it before, I will say it again however – why the hell did Tristam Hunt join the Labour Party in the first place?


Ray_North September 17, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Eddie!! Welcome back – you’ve been missed (mind you, you haven’t missed much, we’ve been very quiet for various reasons).


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