Pressure on Miliband amid reshuffle

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Ed Miliband’s leadership is under fresh pressure amid claims of a plot to oust him and an attack by a key left-wing magazine.

The Labour leader carried out a mini-reshuffle of his top team last night that put the MP who ran his campaign for the party’s top job in charge of the ground effort to win the general election.

But the shake-up took place against a backdrop of reports that backbenchers are planning a putsch to force Mr Miliband out, with a letter apparently being circulated calling for him to stand aside for the good of the party.

The New Statesman, which backed Mr Miliband to run the party in 2010, also added to the leader’s woes by publishing a stinging assessment of his tenure.

Editor Jason Cowley wrote: ” Miliband is very much an old-style Hampstead socialist. He doesn’t really understand the lower middle class or material aspiration. He doesn’t understand Essex Man or Woman.

“Politics for him must seem at times like an extended PPE seminar: elevated talk about political economy and the good society.”

He added: ” Most damaging, I think, is that he seldom seems optimistic about the country he wishes to lead. Miliband speaks too often of struggle and failure, of people as victims – and it’s true that life is difficult for many. But a nation also wants to feel good about itself and to know in which direction it is moving.”

The magazine quoted one shadow cabinet minister as admitting “Morale has never been lower” while a shadow minister said MPs were ” all very, very concerned”.

Mr Miliband made Lucy Powell vice-chairman of the general election campaign in last night’s reshuffle.

The MP, who ran Mr Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership and was elected as an MP only in 2012, was the main winner in the shake-up carried out following Jim Murphy’s resignation.

Although Douglas Alexander will remain in overall control of the election strategy, Ms Powell will be in charge of the campaign operation and vowed to make sure Mr Miliband played a prominent role on the doorstep.

She will have a place in the shadow cabinet and takes over some of the duties previously performed by Michael Dugher, who has been promoted to shadow transport secretary.

Mary Creagh moves from the transport brief to take over as shadow international development secretary, replacing Mr Murphy, who stood down to contest the Labour leadership in Scotland.

In an acknowledgement that change was needed six months ahead of the general election next May, Ms Powell said: ” I’m going to unblock the system to make sure that our operation is serving all of those fantastic candidates and our fantastic front bench and Ed as our leader.”

She told BBC2’s N ewsnight: “We always need to review these things and make sure that they are working at their very best and I’m absolutely sure that, with some new energy and vigour into the system, we can make sure that all of our candidates, our front bench, our shadow cabinet, are getting the best service that they want.”

In other changes, Jon Trickett has been brought into Mr Miliband’s office to be a senior adviser as a “voice that Ed values”, Alison McGovern has replaced Ms Powell as shadow children’s minister, and Anas Sarwar, who quit as the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, will take a shadow ministerial role in international development.

A Labour source said it was “idiotic” to suggest that the appointment of Ms Powell was a panic measure, with Labour failing to establish a major lead in the polls ahead of the May 2015 contest, adding: “That would be a ludicrous interpretation.

“If you look at the way the campaign has run, it was the Labour Party which led the campaign and won the referendum (in Scotland), it was the Labour Party that won in Wythenshawe and Sale, it was the Labour Party which won in Heywood and Middleton.

“We have organisers in 100 key seats, we have a well recognised campaign on the ground.”

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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