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Will the winner’s first act be to take on his MPs?

September 22nd, 2010

Should HE choose the shadow cabinet – not the PLP?

Whichever of the brothers wins Labour’s election (and online voting finishes at 5pm) he will inherit a structure which drastically reduces his ability to lead and shape the party in the manner that he thinks fit.

For Labour, when in opposition, has an archaic rule that means that the shadow cabinet is elected by MPs and is not chosen by the leader. The winner will be castrated before he starts.

As Paul Waugh writes this morning it was widely assumed that Tony Blair would have ditched the system when he took over in 1994. He didn’t and, of course, it did not matter during Labour’s thirteen years in power. Now it does and seems like an anachronism.

David or Ed Miliband will never be as powerful in the party as in the hours after the election result is announced on Saturday. This coming weekend would be the moment to announce that he wants a change. After all the PLP would surely not want to take on the newly elected leader.

Would either of them do it? I’m not so sure – as David Cameron found shortly after the election taking on a parliamentary party can cause problems. Should the winner do it? My view is yes.

The party’s MPs had a chance to change the rules a fortnight ago. They voted by 143 to 84 votes to maintain the elected system. There is nothing as conservative as a Labour MP.

Mike Smithson