UK Politics

Ed Miliband promotes fresh faces to Labour top team

Labour leader Ed Miliband has promoted several MPs elected only last year to his shadow cabinet as part of a wide-ranging reshuffle.

Rachel Reeves, Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna will join the team, less than 18 months after entering Parliament.

Several Labour big hitters, including Harriet Harman and Andy Burnham, move to new briefs, while other former ministers leave altogether.

Mr Miliband said the appointments were "a changing of the guard" for Labour.

Labour recently voted to scrap shadow cabinet elections, giving Mr Miliband a free hand over appointments.

Prior to a vote at last week's party conference, Labour's front bench in opposition was elected every two years, but Mr Miliband is now able to choose the members himself.

Several big hitters who had been tipped to return to the front bench, including the former lord chancellor Lord Falconer and former home secretary Alan Johnson, do not appear in the new line-up.

But senior figures, including Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Douglas Alexander, retain their existing positions. Eleven of the new shadow cabinet are women.

Three former ministers, John Denham, John Healey and Shaun Woodward, will return to the backbenches in the shake-up.

'Portillo moment'

Among the class of 2010, Ms Reeves will become shadow chief secretary to the Treasury and Ms Kendall is named shadow minister for care and older people.

Other new MPs Mr Umunna and Margaret Curran will take on the business and Scotland briefs respectively. Michael Dugher, a former adviser to Gordon Brown, will become shadow minister without portfolio.

Tom Watson, another close ally of Mr Brown who has become a high-profile campaigner against phone hacking, has taken on a new role as deputy chair of the Labour Party.

Ms Harman will take on the culture brief, swapping her previous responsibility for international development with Ivan Lewis.

Mr Burnham will swap education for health - the department he ran as a Labour minister in the previous government.

He is succeeded at education by Stephen Twigg, most widely known for defeating Michael Portillo during the 1997 Labour landslide election victory. Having lost his seat in 2005, Mr Twigg returned to Parliament in 2010.

Baroness Scotland has quit as shadow attorney general, saying it was "time for something new". She will be replaced by former health spokeswoman Emily Thornberry.

Meg Hillier and Ann McKechin are two others leaving the front bench team altogether.

'New talent'

Mr Miliband said: "It is a changing of the guard for Labour. I think it's important to bring on that new talent and I think it's the way we can be a Labour Party which properly focuses on the future which is what we need to do.

"It's a party that is moving on. It's not the party that was in government just a couple of years ago, it's a party that's moving forward."

On the relative youth and inexperience of some of his choices, Mr Miliband said: "These are young people, but I hold to the view that if you're good enough, you're old enough.

"We've got people who've had experience in other walks of life and have already shone in Parliament."

He said the newer MPs would bring "fresh ideas and fresh thinking", but would be working closely with other more experienced figures.

'Cronies'

The Conservatives, however, accused Mr Miliband of promoting "Gordon Brown's cronies, the very people who got us into this mess in the first place".

Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves and Stephen Twigg
Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves and Stephen Twigg all get key posts

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 electoral system led to candidates "campaigning against colleagues" for months, which was a "huge distraction".

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

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