Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A tartan-free Labour front bench?

Have you noticed how New Generation Labour has a new postcode? Ed Miliband is a north London boy, Hariet Harman tooks afer the Del Boys of Peckham, Sadiq Khan is Tooting's popular front and Ken Livingstone is old father Thames himself.

For almost two decades the Labour front bench looked like the Earl of Bute's cabinet - it was dominated by Scots. Now there is the prospect of the top of the party being what one MP described to me today as "a tartan free zone".

The list of shadow cabinet nominees will be out today at 5pm. The Scottish runners so far are Douglas Alexander, Jum Murphy, Ann McKechin, Tom Harris and Eric Jocye. Others may decide to put their name into the hat.

My veteran Labour MP, who remembers shadow cabinet elections of the past, knows what a complete lottery the whole thing is. "Some very senior ex-Ministers may find themselves very surprised," he said darkly.

Let me translate: he means that Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander - the main organisers of the David Miliband campaign - might find themselves being blamed for the failure to win.

Alexander is used to getting blamed for things he's not responsible for - like the November 2007 election that never was, and can look after himself. Murphy is too light of foot to be caught in the falling rubble of David Miliband's career.

Ed Miliband will need at least one Scot in the shadow cabinet, or be in the embarrassing position of having to co-opt someone to be the Shadow Scottish Secretary.

Ann McKechin's name has already been linked to the post but hopefully the leader will be spoiled for choice come October 7th. Even if all five Scots, or more (lets not forget people like Pat McFadyen), make it the top table it's undeniable that Labour's centre of gravity has moved south.

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