Opinion: January Reshuffle – Big Surprises and the Liberal ‘Big Beasts’ (Part II)

Part Two – Beyond the Big Beasts (To read Part I – Two Big Surprises – published yesterday, please click here).

Lynne Featherstone has clearly earned a promotion to shadow Ed Balls at the Department of Communities and Local Government, with her work around the ‘Baby P’ case. And David Laws would better suit a move to Energy and Climate Change, where he could make a good case for the economics of our green policies and be an effective opponent of Ed Miliband, thought by many to be the more talented Miliband brother and certainly someone to be taken seriously.

My final choices are where I will most likely lose those of you who have managed to read this far… but hear me out! It is stating the obvious to say that our front bench is extremely white, our representation of minorities is abysmal and there is little we can do about that until the next election, outside of appointments to the Lords. The Conservatives have tried to beat the perceptions of them by appointing Baroness Warsi to a high profile position. We have done little or nothing.

For this I don’t have a complete answer and a reshuffle can only be a tiny part of the solution. We have a potentially effective spokesperson for DCLG in the Lords in Baroness Falkner. Julia Goldsworthy has never seemed entirely comfortable in her role shadowing Hazel Blears, and Nick could do worse than promoting Baroness Falkner in the Lords: she is extremely intelligent and capable (although she may need some media training – she has had a tendency to stumble in some of her Lords’ debates). It would create some challenges in holding Hazel Blears to account in Parliament but those are not insurmountable.

Julia did well in her role as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and would again be a good deputy for Vince if she were to return there. Jeremy Browne could move to Defence, where Nick Harvey has done little of note. Putting someone so close to Nick Clegg’s inner circle in this position would send a signal that we are taking defence policy seriously, particularly our policy on the Gurkhas, which straddles defence and the home office. Our withdrawal from Iraq, and the change in policy on Afghanistan coming from Obama, will be important times for the Liberal Democrats to remind the public of our good judgement over this issue. Not to mention the continuing issue of the under-resourcing and over-deployment of our troops under this Government.

There are obviously quite a few glaring omissions here. The Work and Pensions brief will become more important over the next year with the expected increases in unemployment but I haven’t made any suggestions for that. Will Jenny Willott be the best person for the job? Do we need a change at Transport, or is Norman Baker doing a great job as it is? I think Chris Huhne is doing well in his current position at Home Affairs, and there isn’t any real need to move him, but some of you might think otherwise. I also haven’t said what would happen to John Thurso and his award-winning beard.

I hope you can understand some of my reasoning here and if nothing else I hope I’ve started a discussion for what could be some extremely important choices in the run up to the next election. In case you missed them here are my proposed appointments in full:

Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Public Sector Reform (BERR)
Lord Ashdown

Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

Charles Kennedy

Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Lynne Featherstone

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

David Laws

Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government

Baroness Falkner

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Julia Goldsworthy

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Jeremy Browne

* Letterman is a regular commenter on LDV. He is a politically-restricted party member (hence the pseudonym). You can read Part I of his January reshuffle opinion – Two Big Surprises – by clicking here.

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  • hatching chicken 1st Jan '09 - 1:12pm

    I hate this kind of useless, far-fetched speculations. We don’t even know yet if Gordon Brown will have any reshuffle, and yet the “Letterman” is already distributing the portfolios in Nick Clegg’s Shadow Cabinet. :-/

  • Geoffrey Payne, actually the disasterous effects are due to “hard-touch” regulation in the financial sector. The U.S. neoconservative politicians (who vow in the name of the Free Markets, but do the opposite) wanted to increase owner-occupation (thinking that would also increase their support) and in order to achieve that wooed, pressed and forced (which hardly can be called “light-touch” regulation) banks to give risky loans to people, who couldn’ta afford to pay them back. Now the effects are visible to everyone, first Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell, then due to the domino-effect others.

    But naturally the politicians don’t want to take the responsibility of their actions, but blame the “free” markets. And socialists like you couldn’t agree more, because they get wind beneath their wings, and demand even more regulation, which caused the whole disaster. Markets may not be perfect, but do you really think that the politicians are better? Just think of Gordon Brown. :-/

  • Anonymous has a post with very little truth in it. It’s just simply wrong. The regulation often blamed, the Communities Regulation Act, is over 20 years old. The vast majority of the mortgage lending in the last boom came from banks not covered by the CRA.

    I see anonymous’ point in many places. Odd how it’s the governments fault for corporate greed.

  • Government department-sized typo in paragraph 1!

  • Geoffrey Payne, I see you have made some hard research on the reasons of the current disaster … from Vanity Fair!

    I think Geoffrey Payne should read someone who really knows what is going on, Richard A. Epstein for example;


  • Can someone tell me exactly why Lib Dem bloggers rate Lynne Featherstone so highly as a spokesperson?

    Aside from being a good blogger (how many voters does that reach) and making hay over Baby P (a constituency issue), can anybody set out what she has done with the Equalities brief?

    Susan Kramer has set out a new and expansive childcare policy.

    David Laws is set to reform our schools policies at Spring Conference.

    Chris Huhne holds the Government to account day in day out over their criminal justice policies.

    Vince Cable is…..well Vince.

    What has Lynne done?

  • Perennially Bored 3rd Jan '09 - 1:55pm

    Have to agree with Puzzled on Lynne. I lost all credence in her abilities at autumn conference two years ago (Brighton) where she gave an abysmal speech in her international development role – it was incoherent, jumped from issue to issue, betrayed a lack of understanding of the role of different elements in development, e.g. trade policy, and at times was simply incorrect. Yes she did a good job wih Baby P, but I can’t see that she did better than any other MP would have done in the same position.

    In my opinion our most under-utilised MP is Susan Kramer – took losing transport, where she was doing a brilliant job of opposing Heathrow expansion, well, and has really made something of what people see as a ‘lesser’ portfolio. I’m also not sure what Norman Baker has done at Transport – only things I’ve seen him talk about are his usual cleaning up the commons/funding/etc hobbyhorses (not to imply that they aren’t important, but would he be better able to engage them as e.g. shadow leader of the house).

    Oh, and what has Jenny Willott done?

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