UK Politics

Unveiling Labour's new guard

Their names might be unfamiliar, but Ed Miliband is calling his new front row the right mix of youth and experience.

His shadow cabinet is believed to be one of the most youthful top teams ever assembled, with an average age of 48. Two members are in their 30s and 12 in their 40s.

So, who are the new kids on the block?

Chuka Umunna, shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills

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Media captionMP Chuka Umunna, the new shadow business secretary: "It's about how we get growth to return to our economy"

The 32-year-old has risen to a senior role on the Labour benches after less than 18 months as an MP.

The son of a Nigerian father and English-Irish mother, Mr Umunna's grandfather was a High Court judge and a prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials.

The former employment lawyer is dubbed by some as "Britain's Barack Obama" - a tag which does not please him.

"You get this sense sometimes that you're being hyped up to be shot down. There's not much I can do about that but I don't like to be defined through the prism of someone else's personality," he told the This is Money financial website in September.

Tipped by come to be a future prime minister, Mr Umunna was elected in 2010 to the Streatham constituency, the area where he grew up.

He studied law at the University of Manchester and the University of Burgundy, followed by Nottingham Law School.

Since his election he served on the Treasury Select Committee before being appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ed Miliband, of whom he is a close ally, last October.

As shadow small business minister he criticised the coalition for not doing enough to foster bank lending through its Project Merlin agreement.

He topped the list of "most fanciable MP" in a Sky News poll following the election, sharing the mantle with the Tories' Zac Goldsmith.

Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury

Image caption Miss Reeves said it was her school years that politicised her

Miss Reeves, 32, was given a role on Labour's front benches within six months of entering Parliament.

Ed Miliband brought her into his team as shadow minister for pensions at the first opportunity after being elected leader.

There, she challenged the government on its plans to accelerate the increase in the state pension age.

She will shadow the Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander in her new post, which covers issues of state spending cuts, welfare reform and public sector pay and pensions.

Miss Reeves, who has been tipped by party insiders to be the first female leader of the Labour Party, worked as an economist at the Bank of England, the British Embassy in the US and Halifax Bank of Scotland before her election to the Leeds West constituency.

Born in Lewisham, south-east London to Labour-supporting parents, she was educated at a state school, Cator Park, and was only the third person in her school to go on to Oxford or Cambridge.

There she read philosophy, politics and economics before gaining a masters degree at the London School of Economics.

It was her school years which politicised her, Miss Reeves recently told the New Statesman: "The eighties and nineties were a very tough time for schools like mine. There were large cutbacks in sport, music and other extracurricular activities. My mother is a special needs teacher and special needs were cut back as well. We didn't have enough textbooks. The library was closed and turned into a classroom.

"There was nowhere for children to do their homework. I was struck by the unfairness of it all."

Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary

Image caption Mr Twigg was schools minister until 2005, when he lost his seat

Mr Twigg, MP for Liverpool West Derby, came to national prominence when he ousted Conservative Michael Portillo during the Labour Party's landslide victory in 1997.

The 45-year-old achieved a 17% swing from the Tories to defeat the then defence secretary - who was widely tipped to become the next party leader - in Enfield Southgate, where he was brought up.

Mr Twigg was the first pupil from his comprehensive to go to Oxford University, where he became the youngest and first openly gay president of the National Union of Students in 1990.

Within two years he was elected as a councillor in Islington in north London and in 1997 he was elected to Parliament. Once again he broke new ground, this time as the first openly gay MP.

That year he was listed at number 23 in the top 500 lesbian and gay heroes in the Pink Paper.

He served as schools' minister until 2005, when he lost his seat to the Conservatives. During his time outside the Commons he worked in high profile roles for groups including the Foreign Policy Centre, the Fabian Society and Progress.

It was during this period, in December 2005, that he was arrested in central London for being drunk and incapable. He was fined £50.

At the 2010 general election he was selected as the Labour Co-operative candidate for the Liverpool West Derby constituency. He was elected with a majority of 18,467.

In October 2010 he stood in the shadow cabinet elections, securing 55 votes - well short of making the cut.

He was subsequently appointed to the Labour front bench as a shadow minister in the foreign affairs team.

His latest role of shadow education secretary is seen as one of the biggest jobs to be dished out by Labour leader Ed Miliband in his wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle.

Tom Watson, deputy chairman

Image caption Mr Watson was the first MP to have a blog

Mr Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, has rarely been out of the headlines since becoming a high profile campaigner against phone hacking.

He has repeatedly raised the matter in the Commons, demanding more action from police, prosecutors and Parliament. The 44-year-old's crusade for an inquiry saw him named select committee member of the year by The House magazine.

In 2006, the Brownite resigned as a defence minister, calling for Tony Blair to quit.

His decision to take a stand against Mr Blair, Mr Watson believes, put him in the media firing line.

The episode saw him resign - a resignation he insists was for family reasons.

When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, Mr Watson was brought back into government as a whip, and in 2008 he was appointed minister for digital engagement.

It was in this role that the former union official saw the potential of social media as a political tool. He is a prolific Twitter-user and was the first MP to have a blog.

In April 2009, he had another run in with the media when he was accused of being involved in a smear campaign against the Tories.

He sued the Sun newspaper over stories alleging he had been involved in a plot led by Mr Brown's then spin doctor Damian McBride, who quit over the scandal.

The married father-of-two later won "substantial" libel damages.

In July of that year he joined the culture select committee and soon after it began investigating phone hacking. Mr Watson decided it was down to him to "get to the truth".

Since Mr Watson's latest appointment, John Whittingdale, head of the culture, media and sport committee, has told the Guardian he should stand down from the back-bench committee., but the MP says he is entitled to remain in the role.

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