What is not but could be if

A bit disappointed to read that Alan Johnson is thinking of standing down from the Labour frontbench – i.e. not putting himself forward for the Shadow Cabinet elections in autumn this year. I appreciate his reasoning, if indeed, he’s made that decision – looks like he’s just mulling it over at the moment. And he really ought to run for London mayor – he’d be excellent!

Alistair Darling has already said he’s not going to stand for the Shadow Cabinet elections, and that’s understandable – being shadow Chancellor is a fairly thankless task when you’ve held the actual job for several years and, to be frank, are unlikely to return to it again. And Alistair is probably not the kind of politician to enjoy Opposition. (Some of my colleagues, it has to be said, are rather looking forward to it, and it will be interesting to see who thrives in Opposition who perhaps didn’t shine when we were in Government. Is there a modern-day Robin Cook lurking on the backbenches, with forensic cross-examination skills to strike terror into the hearts of equivocating Ministers?)

But re AJ and Alistair’s decision… Who knows whether the new Government will manage to fix the rules so that they can survive till 2015 but if we are going to be in Opposition till then, we need to be bringing new blood forward, to be the Cabinet ministers of the future.

I think we’ll see people like Chris Bryant – very good in the Chamber – coming to the fore, and the more managerial politicians, perhaps prized for their competence rather than their oratorical skills, not doing so well.

It’s a particular concern amongst women MPs, that with the exception of Yvette Cooper, most of our senior women politicians have been around rather a long time (Harriet, Tessa, Margaret, our very own Dawn Primarolo), and while there are lots of thrusting young men waiting to join the Shadow Cabinet ranks, there aren’t that many women obviously in contention. I’d have liked to see Angela Smith and Gilly Merron, both of whom lost their seats at the election, taking on higher profile roles. Vera Baird too, was someone who may have thrown her hat into the ring. I suspect Caroline Flint and even Hazel Blears may attempt a comeback, and the Eagle sisters will give it a go. And it will be interesting to see whether Diane Abbott’s bid for the leadership gives her a platform for Shadow Cabinet glory. Not sure what portfolio she’d be entrusted with though!

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  • ralasdair  On May 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    There were a couple of interesting women in the new intake who could be contenders – the likes of Stella Creasy, Liz Kendall and (if she can get over the slight odour of ‘party hack parachuted in’) Luciana Berger. Will be interesting to watch…

    • kerrymccarthy  On May 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      I think Shadow Cabinet status is slightly premature at the moment – but agree, some very impressive women in the new intake. People like Kate Green, former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, and Lisa Nandy, from the Children’s Society, too. By 2015, who knows where we’ll be – after all, Ed and Ed weren’t MPs till 2005!

  • fireballdarren  On May 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Nice use of the word thrusting

  • Rachel  On May 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Gisela Stuart?

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