He fills his head with culture…

At one point during the election campaign I found myself in Boston Tea Party for Sunday brunch with a rather hungover @BenMosley, @BevaniteEllie, @BenCooper86 and @Conorpope, to give them their Twitter names. We started playing fantasy Cabinet 2020 (ie on my insistence they all have glittering careers ahead of them). Ben’s dream role was Defence (he grew up on army bases), Ellie wanted to follow in the footsteps of her hero Nye Bevan at Health… Can’t remember what job we gave Ben, but when it came to Conor we simultaneously burst out laughing with “Culture Media and Sport!” Which we found hilarious – the joke being that DCMS was the department for someone who couldn’t be trusted with anything except going to concerts, art gallery openings and the FA Cup Final. Not a bad choice for someone who’s doing an English degree, is a part time stand-up comedian and has rather excellent taste in music for one of such tender years.

This is when I have to cover myself by saying that of course there is a lot more to DCMS than that, and it’s actually quite a political battleground at the moment, with the future of public service broadcasting at stake, the digital economy, etc. And of course recent occupants of the post on the Labour side have been fine Ministers who have proved themselves first in other departments. (Jeremy Hunt may be slightly more difficult to defend).

All this is by way of preamble to a topic which will no doubt occupy many blog inches (?) over the coming month: the Shadow Cabinet elections. Nominations don’t even start till after the new leader is elected, but the horses are already out of the traps and those of us who aren’t standing for election will probably find we don’t have to buy ourselves any drinks between now and the beginning of October.

We vote tomorrow on whether the Shadow Cabinet should be wholly/partly elected/appointed, and how many places there should be, but I think on current practice there would be 19 elected places. The prediction is that as many as 80 MPs could put their names forward (so that’s basically everyone except me, Jack Straw and the 67 MPs in the 2010 intake, isn’t it?)

There are some people I’m obviously going to vote for – and can I predict now that Yvette Cooper will top the poll? (We’re also voting tomorrow on what proportion of the Shadow Cabinet should be women, and how many votes should be cast for female candidates, but I can’t see anyone not voting for Yvette. Harriet btw is already in there as Deputy Leader.) When you then factor in the unsuccessful leadership candidates, three of whom are dead certs for a Shadow Cabinet place and big hitters like AJ, there aren’t actually that many places going…

So who will I be blessing with my vote? I’ll be looking at political balance for one thing… I’m almost certain to vote for people like Jim Murphy and Liam Byrne, because they’re so good and hugely likeable too, but they are very much on the Blairite wing of the party (though I think it’s time we consigned that term to history) and I’d want them balanced out by people with a more leftish take on things. Jon Cruddas, for example, though he wants to be elected Party Chair and I’m not sure he’s even running.

There’s also one test I’ve set… which takes us back to my introductory ramblings. What role can I see them taking? Someone like Chris Bryant, for example, who is one of our most effective performers in the Chamber and an absolute master of parliamentary procedure, I can see in a variety of roles, e.g. Foreign Office (though unlikely for a new boy), Justice, Deputy PM’s department, Leader of House, DEFRA, DCMS, Wales (though he’d be wasted there – one of the drawbacks of winning a Shadow Cabinet place is that you can’t speak on any other topic, unlike junior shadows). I can’t see him so easily in an economic role, but that doesn’t matter – he’s ticked enough boxes, he deserves his place. And he is the one non-incumbent who can be absolutely certain of getting my vote.

Some other MPs, however, may have been very effective and capable junior Ministers, but when it comes to imagining them leading on a departmental brief, I struggle… and if you then find yourself in “well, possibly DCMS….?” territory, then it probably means that they haven’t won their spurs yet. Of course you could argue that they simply haven’t had the chance to prove themselves, and I’ll be asking anyone who solicits my support what role(s) they see themselves in, and why they think they’d be good at it. (I may on the other hand just perfect the art of being seen to be engrossed in a very important phone call whenever I see one of them approaching!)

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  • hesspartacus  On September 8, 2010 at 11:41 am

    A public service broadcaster would be nice.

    When do you think we’ll get one?

  • woodsy  On September 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    If the Ben to whom you’re giving the DCMS portfolio doesn’t want his FA Cup Final ticket, could I reserve it now? (Years ago, the late Tommy Cooper asked the Queen for hers backstage after a Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium.) 🙂

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