Denham and Healey leave in shadow cabinet reshuffle

John Denham and John Healey Several new MPs are tipped to enter the cabinet as veterans John Denham and John Healey leave

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John Denham and John Healey are to leave the shadow cabinet as part of a reshuffle by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The shadow business and health secretaries are said to be leaving "of their own accord".

Under Labour rules, scrapped at last week's party conference, the shadow cabinet was elected every two years.

Now Mr Miliband is able to choose for himself who serves in his team. Among those expected to be promoted are new MPs Rachel Reeves and Stella Creasy.

Full details of the reshuffle are expected on Friday.

Other former big hitters who have been tipped to return to the front bench include the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer and former home secretary Alan Johnson.

'Strategy ahead'

In a letter to the party leader, Mr Healey said it was a "big decision" to leave the cabinet but it was time to put his family first.

He wrote: "We - and you personally - have had a strong and successful conference.

"I know you will now be turning your mind to strategy for the months ahead, including the make-up of your shadow ministerial teams, so I wanted to let you know of my wish to step down from the shadow cabinet."

Mr Miliband replied: "I know this has been a difficult and very personal decision for you, but in both government and opposition you have served tirelessly and with distinction."

Meanwhile, Mr Denham has agreed to serve as Mr Miliband's unpaid parliamentary private secretary.

'Carrying their weight'

Rumours that a reshuffle was imminent have been swirling since party members at Labour's conference in Liverpool voted to back Mr Miliband's call to scrap shadow cabinet elections.

A previous attempt to scrap the elections last year, before Mr Miliband was elected leader, was rejected by Labour MPs. But he chose to pursue the issue once he became leader.

He had argued that the elections system led to candidates "campaigning against colleagues" for months, which was a "huge distraction".

Among those urging a change at the top is the former deputy PM Lord Prescott, who told the BBC recently: "There are some people in there who are undoubtedly not carrying their weight."

War resignation

The Labour leader and deputy leader are elected separately by MPs, party members and members of affiliated trade unions and socialist societies.

Mr Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, is a favourite with Labour MPs, coming second in the shadow cabinet elections last year.

The 50-year-old served as local government minister and housing minister in the previous government.

Mr Denham, 57, only just held onto his Southampton Itchen seat in the 2010 general election, winning by a margin of 192 votes.

He made headlines in 2003 when he resigned from Tony Blair's government over the Iraq war, but later returned to office as universities secretary and communities secretary.

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