Which of the new Shadow appointees will force that first, inevitable resignation from the government?
Yvette Cooper topping William Hague? That’s going to be a classic: her searing acidity versus his affected insouciance. Despite her indisputable demolition abilities, the middle-term depends on Hague’s bedroom habits catching up with him, or his own frustration and readiness to go off and write another book/make money in the City. Cooper is a tough cookie; and would simply shrug that off and look for bigger game. She certainly will not be greatly exerted in kicking Hague, chatting up Hillary, and still getting the kids to bed on time.
Blood on the Commons carpet
Malcolm would have an each-way bet on Ed Balls or Jim Murphy (at Defence) for the honour of the premier coup-de-grace.
Jim Murphy looks to have an open goal when the defence review comes in. Then all the old service conflicts and tendencies to leak (and that’s not just from a further diminished navy) resume. Liam Fox himself may walk (and probably rapidly into very well-paid employment in the defence industry).
Home and disMay
If there is to be a cat-and-dog fight it will be Balls taking apart Theresa May’s Home Office. Very few politicians in recent years have escaped unscathed from the accident-liable-to-happen-at-any-moment that is the Home Secretaryship. May has had an easy ride so far; but already has inevitably scored numerous potential enemies. It would be a holy miracle were there to be no hostile leaks or briefings from some of those affronted sources. Balls gets wifely support here from Cooper: she has the equalities brief, and will thereby be able to bleed May and the pathetic Lynne Featherstone. May has more than her fair share of (so far and in public, tacit) critics on her own benches: when the ordure transits the Dyson bladeless fan, not many Tories will do the gentlemanly thing and stand in its way.
An unsentimental education
Another dead man walking is Gove at Education. He’s going to take endless stick, and judicial review, over the school cancellations. Those “free schools” are an invitation for any nut-case group to put indoctrination on the syllabus. All those academies are bound to throw up a few which fail dismally. Making “savings” on support staff, as Polly Toynbee’s throwaway comment notes, is another hostage to fortune:
This week’s figures showed Labour’s school results for 11-year-olds improved again, up from 53% in 1997 to 74% success this year: with one-to-one help, classroom assistants and teachers all cut back, these risk sliding back again.
The sweet reasonableness of Andy Burnham will happily point up Gove’s swivel-eyed tendencies. Indeed, this one that deserves poor odds in the Bloodbath Selling Plate. Gove survived the expenses scandal largely on Cameron’s broad back: his luck is not endless, his political capital (having quite a few Tory backbiters back-biting) not limitless.
Similarly John Healey at Health has some easy meat. The NHS reforms, already taken apart by the King’s Fund, and hardly serenaded from the housetops by GPs who’ll have to work them, have Malcolm musing that Lansley has a certain resemblance to Hal in the deservedly-famed Larson cartoon (as right). Above all, the good news is that Lansley, like Gove, is politically butter-fingered: he is gaffe-prone, acquired a reputation as a “flipper” in the expenses scandal, and has been seen as too close to the fat-farmers of the food industry.
Top of the bill
The selection of Mr Johnson, who is thought to be more fiscally hawkish [than the Balls/Cooper duo], suggests that Mr Miliband is above all keen for Labour to avoid being branded “deficit-deniers”. As a former supporter of David Miliband, the more right-wing candidate for the leadership, and as an ally of Tony Blair’s in the last government, he also provides an element of New Labour continuity in the shadow-cabinet. He will be supported in the economic portfolios by Angela Eagle (shadow chief secretary to the treasury) and John Denham (shadow business secretary).
What that omits is that Alan Johnson is the safest pair of hands around — and he certainly has been around. Nick Robinson appreciates Johnson in his blog yesterday:
I well recall his reaction [when it was previously rumoured he should go to the Treasury] - he looked like he’d swallowed a wasp. Unlike the other obvious candidate back then – Ed Balls – he had no economic training and was not desperate to do the job.
Robinson then adds that Johnson is no “Red”, is not going to be any threat (as if …) to his Leader, is a good “Labourite” appointment, and has the humour, commonsense and basic decency to tpersecute Osborne as the out-of-touch rich kid.
AJ is, above all else, “a man of the people”; and no push-over. His jousting with accident-prone Osborne will be fascinating. His two affiliates, Angela (the non-legal Eagle) and John Denham, are well up to creating mayhem: not that Denham will need suffer much heavy-lifting when semi-detached Vince Cable is himself capable of instant applecart upending.
This ConDem coalition cannot afford to lose any one of the top trio: Cameron, Clegg and Osborne. They are the glue in operation. Without Osborne’s austerity, there is no economic policy, no political narrative, and hence no coalition.
However desperate, restless and rancorous the Tory backbenches are when the cuts bite, their constituency chairmen moan, their councillors are culled, Osborne will be kept. At first as an icon, later as a scapegoat. Only in extremis (poll ratings into the low twenties? mass unemployment? the doldrums of a continuing double-dip? the inability of the private sector to pick up the pieces?) will Gids be out of the troika and into the maw of those ravening wolves. The timing for that, on the precedent of the Thatcher government, is two years in.
Meanwhile, AJ’s technique as chief executioner (for that is what it amounts to) should be the drip-drip of economic Chinese water-torture. Thus will the next General Election be won.