What will the next Lib Dem shadow cabinet look like?

by Stephen Tall on November 12, 2007

Five weeks’ today, the Liberal Democrats will be announcing who is to be the next leader of the party: Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne. One of the first jobs for whoever is the victor is to decide who should be in their shadow cabinet – never an easy task.

First, you have to reward those who’ve backed your campaign. Then you have to bend over backwards to be nice to the runner-up against whom you’ve been sparring for two months. And then you have to prove your unifying credentials by giving some key posts to those MPs who didn’t back you. There is the added complication this time that there are two ex-leaders in the current Parliamentary party, as well as the current acting leader, all of whom merit inclusion at the top table.

So what will Chris/Nick do?

What place should the runner-up take?

An easier call, perhaps, for Chris than for Nick. If Chris wins, then he could hardly be accused of snubbing Nick if he asked him to continue to shadow the home affairs brief: it is, after all, one of the most prominent positions available. However, if Nick wins, where would he place Chris?

The environment job is clearly a crucial one for the party, but Chris might feel (a) ready for a change, (b) like he deserves one of the traditional ‘big three’ portfolios, and (c) Nick’s veiled criticisms of his marketing of the party’s ‘green tax switch’ make it impossible for him to continue in that role.

Chris’s background as a financial journalist, and then as founder of his own successful firm of economists, would ordinarily make him a shoo-in for shadow chancellor. But would it make sense to move Vince Cable, who has earned the party real credibility in treasury matters? And who has also performed the tricky task of acting leader with such distinction. If Vince were to make way for Chris, how could the party make best use of Vince’s financial acuity?

What to do with our ex-leaders?

Both contenders have made clear their keenness to see Charles Kennedy return to a leading role in Parliament: now is surely as good a time as any so long as Charles is both able and willing. The two obvious potential slots are shadow foreign secretary or a ‘Europe and constitutional issues’ brief; the latter would probably provide the best fit both with a return to the front-line, and also with Charles’s own long-standing passions.

Ming may feel he should take a back seat, to give the new leader the time and space to get his feet under the table; he might perhaps head up a party review (Nick has already asked him to look at conditions in the military). Alternatively, if he signalled his wish to stay in the shadow cabinet, he might like to return to shadowing either foreign affairs or defence, in both of which roles he has seemed at his most authoritative and comfortable. More left-field opportunities might arise if Gordon Brown feels inclined to offer his friend a consolation prize; either to head up a government review, or – just maybe – the possibility of succeeding Michael Martin as Commons speaker (hinted at in the media, but which is not of course in Gordon’s gift).

And then there’s Vince, widely lauded for his lively stint as acting leader. Should he remain shadow Chancellor? If Chris wins, it seems likely; if Nick wins, and wants to reward Chris, who knows? One alternative might be to give Vince the job Steve Webb has been occupying, and put him in charge of writing the party’s next election manifesto. This kind of over-arching policy coordination role would be a great match for Vince’s talents.

The other question, of course, is whether Vince wishes to remain the party’s deputy leader. There has long been a wish among many members for the party to have a balanced leadership ticket, and for one of our female MPs to step up to the plate – which didn’t happen last time the post was up for grabs, back in March 2006. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Vince taking on with such aplomb the role of acting leader, and making such a good fist of it. So perhaps we should hope he stays put.

Who deserves a bigger role?

Over to you for this one… Our current shadow cabinet is listed here. Who do you think deserves promotion? Who has previously been over-looked, and deserves their chance to shine? And who do you think is the best match for which jobs? In short, let LDV know your fantasy Lib Dem shadow cabinet.

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I felt that Jo Swinson should have remained in the Shadow cabinet and that Ming sent the wrong message when he dropped her. She’s very talented and her demotion caused a lot of bad publicity by the Scotish media.

by Iain Rubie Dale on November 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

Just a thought, but one way of getting round all this would be to have the shadow-cabinet positions elected by the whole parliamentary party. That way, neither leader could be accused of “rewarding” key supporters.

by James K on November 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

Stephen surely you can set up a funkier way for LDV readers to take part in this.

How about getting us to vote for the big three as you put it.

or setting up some kind of voting for each position and then letting us know the result.

It would be fun if totally ignored by new leader

by suggest on November 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm. Reply #

Who do you think deserves promotion?

The two Davids – Howarth and Heath.

by Laurence Boyce on November 12, 2007 at 4:20 pm. Reply #

I’d be very sorry if Heath didn’t remain shadow secretary of state for justice.

by Theo Butt Philip on November 12, 2007 at 4:40 pm. Reply #

re the point on Ming perhaps carrying out a review of the millitary . . .

Can I recommend an extraordinary book I’m currently reading:

Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs by Lewis Page pubd by Randomhouse.

It’s a devastating criticism of the structure of our armed forces.

I would summarise it (apologies to Mr Page for any misrepresentation) as:

our front-line forces are lions, led by donkeys and equipped with rubbish (i.e. the dinosaurs).

Recommended reading – if I had the cash I’d send a copy to all our MPs!

Oh to have someone of Ming’s stature to lead a party review (better still, a cross-party review) of the whole subject.

by crewegwyn on November 12, 2007 at 5:32 pm. Reply #

Well, I guess that the composition of the shadow cabinet will depend a lot of the outcom. If Chris wins, Lynne will probably be the home affairs spokesman. If it will be Nick, I’m not sure, but I hope that he will choose at least one woman to the three most important places. Julia Goldsworthy, perhaps?

But whoever wins, I wish that Vince will be Treasury Spokesman and Ming Foreign Affairs Spokesman, and that Jo Swinson and Jeremy Browne will be promoted into shadow cabinet.

by Anonymous on November 12, 2007 at 5:42 pm. Reply #

I don’t know what the shadow cabinet will look like after the election but I guess there might be one or two constituency organisers around the country who are hoping that their MP doesn’t get too high profile a job and have to spend even more time in London.

by Cheltenham Robin on November 12, 2007 at 5:56 pm. Reply #

Although I am not supporting him, Nick Clegg will win.
He should keep the shadow cabinet largely as it is. Ming can replace Clegg at the home office.
I would like to see Evan Harris or Norman Baker take the foreign spokesperson position. We need a better profile on what is after all a key Liberal position.
Generally our shadow ministers need stability and to master their briefs, rather than change around all the time.
Oh and someone – anyone – should replace Lembit.
Jo should be on the frontbench, but her priority for now is to keep her seat.

by Geoffrey Payne on November 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm. Reply #

I wouldn’t wish to appear cynical, but the article assumes that the candidates haven’t already offered jobs eg Shadow Chancellor to win the support of other MPs.

by Kevin on November 12, 2007 at 11:00 pm. Reply #

I LOVE the idea of Norman Baker as shadow foreign secretary. Someone should start a campaign for it. Imagine the consternation he would cause among the stuffed shirts!

There have been lots of comments on LDV about the jobs that CK and Ming should have but has anyone actually asked them whether either would WANT a job – and is Charles ready to take one on? Its a pretty thankless task being a Lib Dem front bench spokesperson (its a pretty thankless task being a Lib Dem anything… 🙂

by Ed on November 12, 2007 at 11:30 pm. Reply #

I would suggest keeping Vince in the Treasury post and, if Nick wins, giving Chris the home affairs brief. If Chris wins, Nick should probably stay at home affairs as this will be a key battleground. Ming could return to foreign affairs, assuming he wants it and isn’t poached by Brown.

Keep David Laws in education and Norman Lamb in health. Give Susan Kramer the environment brief and Julia Goldsworthy housing policy. Danny Alexander is doing a good job at Work & Pensions so I’d leave him there and bring in Jeremy Browne for “business, enterprise and regulatory reform”.

Not sure about defence, but this will be a sensitive post given the policy differences over Trident.

by Alex S on November 13, 2007 at 1:34 am. Reply #

Ming as Home Affairs? Im interested in that? Might be quite good for him…

by John on November 13, 2007 at 11:05 am. Reply #

6 I agree – very good book.

by peter on November 13, 2007 at 11:35 am. Reply #

yeay, yeay, yeay. The suggestion of Charles for constitutional affairs is gaining ground! Brilliant.

Vince for Foreign Affairs
Chris Huhne for leader or treasury
Nick Clegg for leader or home affairs

Goldsowrthy for treasury or maybe environment, to keep up the environmental taxes direction.

Umm, can’t think of much else.

Maybe Simon for home affairs if Clegg wins.

Maybe keep Lembit where he is, or move to defence. Or Willie Rennie for defence.

Keep David Laws and Norman Lamb where they are. I have been impressed thusfar.

Its complicated isn’t it?

by Dominic Hannigan on November 13, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

vince cable must be kept where he is, he has built up real respect.

Sack Micheal Moore and Nick Harvey, they have made zero impact in important briefs.

Promote Lynne Featherstone and Susan Kramer.

Maybe sack Sarah Teather.

by mindstar on November 14, 2007 at 5:31 am. Reply #

I would have done it like this:

Leader: Nick Clegg
Deputy Leader: Vincent Cable
Chief Whip: Paul Burstow
Chair of Campaigns and Communications: Ed Davey
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer: Vincent Cable
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Jeremy Browne
Shadow SoS for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Sarah Teather
Shadow SoS for Work and Pensions: Danny Alexander
Shadow Home Secretary: David Laws
Shadow SoS for Justice: David Heath
Shadow Attorney General: Lord Thomas
Shadow Solicitor General: David Howarth
Shadow SoS for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: Chris Huhne
Shadow SoS for Defence: Michael Moore
Shadow SoS for International Development: Lembit Opik
Shadow SoS for Children, schools and families: Julia Goldsworthy
Shadow SoS for Innovation, Universities and Skills: Lynne Featherstone
Shadow SoS for Health: Norman Lamb
Shadow SoS for Communities and Local Government: Jo Swinson
Shadow MoS for Housing: Stephen Williams
Shadow SoS for Culture, Media and Sport: Don Foster
Shadow SoS for Environment, Energy, Food and Rural Affairs: Steve Webb
Shadow SoS for Transport: Norman Baker
Shadow MoS for the Countryside: Tim Farron
Shadow SoS for Scotland: Jo Swinson
Shadow SoS for Northern Ireland: Alistair Carmichael
Shadow SoS for Wales: Roger Williams
Leader in the House of Lords: Lord McNally
Lords chief whip: Lord Shutt
Parliamentary campaigns chairman: Willie Rennie
Leader’s chief of staff: Andrew Stunell
Leader’s PPS: Mark Hunter
Parliamentary Party chairman: Lorely Burt
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons: Simon Hughes
Families (overarching policy brief) and Cabinet Office spokeswoman: Susan Kramer

Re Michael Moore: I think it was hard for him to make an impact because Ming, a foreign affairs heavyweight, was Leader.

by Thomas Hemsley on December 23, 2007 at 12:24 pm. Reply #

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