Labour MPs back Miliband on shadow cabinet elections

image captionSupporters say a change in the rules would give the Labour leader more room for manoeuvre

Labour MPs have backed party leader Ed Miliband's plans to scrap the system of elections to the shadow cabinet.

Under decades-old rules, Labour's front bench in opposition is chosen through a ballot of its MPs every two years.

Mr Miliband wants to choose his own shadow cabinet and his proposal must still be agreed by Labour's party conference in September.

But he has won the backing of his own MPs, who voted by 196 to 41 to scrap the elections on Tuesday.

The plan will now go to Labour's ruling National Executive Committee on 19 July - before being voted upon by conference delegates in Liverpool in the autumn.

Mr Miliband said it was an "excellent result for the party".

"We have an important job to do in holding the government to account and preparing for the next election.

"To do that job properly we need to spend our time talking to the public and not ourselves.

"Labour under my leadership will be a party that looks outwards and not inwards."

'Jockeying for position'

Shortly before Mr Miliband became leader, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) rejected an opportunity to scrap shadow cabinet elections by a margin of two to one.

It also rejected proposals from the party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, to make the shadow cabinet at least 50% women - instead settling for 31.5%.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said the move would allow the Labour leader to say that he has begun to reshape the party for the future.

Mr Miliband told Labour's National Policy Forum last week that shadow cabinet elections had led to candidates "jockeying for position, spending months campaigning against colleagues, and organising to get elected" - all of which was "a huge distraction".

But he said he wanted to see the "everyday accountability" of senior figures appearing before a backbench committee and proposed creating a non-voting place for the chair of the PLP in the shadow cabinet.

The proposals are part of a wider package of reforms being suggested by Mr Miliband, including an attempt to reduce the voting power of trade unions at party conference.

Mr Miliband faced criticism from the left of his party and from unions last week after he refused to back public sector workers taking strike action.

And on Sunday, Lord Goldsmith, a former attorney general and close ally of Tony Blair, accused Mr Miliband of damaging Labour's prospects of re-election by excluding major talents from the Blairite wing of the party from his shadow cabinet.

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