Labour reshuffle: twilight of the Blairites or a strong new crew?
How Tory Central Office spun the line that Miliband’s changes are a victory for ‘Red Len’ McCluskey
THE MOLE has learned that Conservative Central Office won yesterday’s war of spin after briefing Lobby journalists that Ed Miliband’s demotion of three Blairites - Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg, and Liam Byrne - was a victory for ‘Red Len’ McCluskey.
Tory commentators see this as one of the great defining moments of Ed Miliband’s leadership - the day he asserted his authority and “came out” as a full-blooded socialist intent on a new post-Blair direction.
Isabel Hardman in The Spectator says: “This was what Ed Miliband did in Brighton two weeks ago. He didn’t suddenly discover, with a jolt, that he was a socialist: he just started being more honest about that.”
There is no doubt that the Blairites are pretty glum at seeing good people demoted while the unreconstructed socialists are dancing with joy.
Bearded old lefty Paul Flynn tweeted: “Twilight of the Blairites means end to myth that election victory is attainable only on the mushy middle-ground of conviction-free politics.”
The truth is Twigg and Byrne were misfiring and Murphy may have been judged too close to the armed services. Even some of his best friends will admit Twigg was a bit wishy-washy over the policy of free schools which ‘Red Ed’ doesn’t like. He has been replaced by historian and all-round brilliant bloke, Tristram Hunt.
Hunt is hardly a red Marxist and one Tory commentator tweeted that seeing him go head-to-head with Michael Gove would be an all-ticket affair.
Conservative Central Office’s McCluskey wheeze was a swift and brilliant operation. Within minutes of the Labour leader’s reshuffle being announced, the Tory spin doctors had pushed out a briefing note to Lobby journalists headed ‘Len McCluskey gets his dream team’.
And for lazy Westminster journalists who couldn’t look up the record themselves, the briefing note provided helpful quotes from McCluskey, the leader of Unite, the Labour leader’s union paymaster, to prove its case.
“If [Ed Miliband] gets seduced by the Jim Murphys and the Douglas Alexanders, then the truth is that he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history” (New Statesman, 24 April 2013).
Here’s another one:
“And this year we have seen one shadow minister after another falling over themselves to endorse savage spending cuts which are hurting real people. Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg and now Ed Balls: four horsemen of the austerity apocalypse” (The Guardian, 16 January 2012).
The spin doctors added a further bit of spice to the Red mix by pointing out that the newly-promoted shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Dugher, was in Gordon Brown’s office alongside the loathsome Damian McBride.
The Tories topped their spin by suggesting that Cameron’s reshuffle of the middle-rankers was aimed at promoting more working-class voices to the frontline, such as Liverpudlian TV presenter Esther McVie. The Daily Mail said it had been dubbed the “night of the long drives” - meaning if you had one leading to your country pile, you were out.
No wonder Ed Miliband's cheerleader at The Guardian, Polly Toynbee, is fuming: “So where is the left-lurching that the Tories allege, with Charles Falconer, Tristram Hunt and Douglas Alexander all exalted? Step back, and what's needed is a more energised crew, ready to step up behind Miliband's initiatives on crony capitalism.”
Former Tory spin doctor Gavin Barwell, given a humble job in the Whips’ Office, tweeted: “Told my sons about my new job. Harry Potter-obsessed 8- year-old replied ‘Why couldn't he make you Minister for Magic?’
Looking at the effect on the Lobby this morning, the Mole thinks they already have. ·