Dugher and Umunna climb the Labour ladder

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 23 May 2011 in Diary
Two bright stars on the Labour benches have been shuffled into new jobs. Both are supposedly promotions, but who will come out of the move better?

A minor reshuffle has taken place in the shadow cabinet today. It's an odd one.

Supposedly Michael Dugher has been promoted from a shadow ministerial position to PPS to Ed Miliband, while Chuka Umunna has been promoted from PPS to Ed Miliband to a, yup, shadow ministerial position.

The question is – is a shadow ministerial role a promotion from PPS, or is PPS to Ed Miliband a promotion from shadow minister? Surely it can't be both.

Umunna becomes shadow business minister, taking over from Gordon Banks who has stepped down to "concentrate on his constituency".

And former chief political spokesman to Gordon Brown, Dugher, steps into Umunna's shoes to become PPS to Ed Miliband from the shadow defence brief.

Sources close to Ed Miliband have recently muttered about how Neal Lawson has fallen out of favour with the top tier of the Labour leadership.

Lawson is chair of Compass, a think tank that seeks to explore direction for the democratic left. Umunna is also known to be a friend of Compass, although he has stepped down from the management committee. Could it be that Compass is out of favour with current Labour thinking?

Lawson recently took on Dugher in a Total Politics debate on a 'progressive alliance' between Labour and the Lib Dems.

Dugher argued that a deal with the Lib Dems should not be the goal for Labour, while Lawson encourages such a union.

Local election results indicated that Lib Dems no longer hold the same appeal for the electorate. If the Labour Party is to win more seats, it must appeal to Conservative voters. It is what MPs like Caroline Flint and even Ed Miliband stated at Progress conference on Saturday.

Dugher understands this narrative and it could be one of the reasons for his appointment. As he said in our article: "If we are to win again, we need sizable numbers of people who have previously voted for the Conservatives to consider voting Labour in the future."

Dugher is also a friend to many people that Ed Miliband wishes to keep in his 'big tent'. He voted for Ed Balls in the leadership election and worked closely with Gordon Brown in No10. Could this be another reason for his selection?

Certainly from Umunna's perspective, the move is a chance to be more vicious on banking and business regulation. He is stepping down from the Treasury select committee in order to take up the appointment.

Mark Ferguson from LabourList also reveals that shadow business secretary John Denham specifically asked for Umunna to join the team.

The internal politics are fascinating. Whether both MPs can call their new appointments promotions remains to be seen, but certainly both are likely to be more comfortable on the attack in their new roles.

Tags: Chuka Umunna, Compass, Ed Miliband, Michael Dugher, Neal Lawson

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