The Shadow Cabinet results are very revealing, on several counts. Out of the 19 elected members, 10 voted for David Miliband, and only 3 or 4 voted for Ed. It is packed with the Blairite Tendency, several of the militant brand, and their influence is not to be under-estimated. Even in the wider Shadow Cabinet of 27, including Lords members and those co-opted by the Leader, Ed only secured the vote of 6 or 7. There is not a single person in the Shadow Cabinet who could be described as a natural left-winger, though perhaps a quarter could be categorised as moderate centre-left. Significantly Diane Abbott, one of the 5 leadership candidates and the only left-wing candidate for the Shadow Cabinet, was not elected.
All this of course reflects, not the wishes of Ed Miliband, but the composition of the PLP. It is an overwhelmingly right-wing body. Out of the 258 members, there is perhaps a militant Blairite core of up to 60 who are quite prepared to cause trouble (as was shown over the challenge to Nick Brown as Chief Whip) plus perhaps a similar number with more moderate Blairite sympathies, still representing nearly half the PLP. In addition there are perhaps some 80-90 members of the former Brownite faction. Only some 50 members could be described as centre-left.
The chronic right-wing ill-balance within the PLP doesn’t reflect at all the wider membership of the Labour Party throughout the country, particularly now that party opinion is clearly moving left. It reflects the cloning of the PLP by the Blair political machine which used every manipulative device (usually contrary to party rules) to achieve the selection of pro-Blairite candidates for every parliamentary vacancy after 1994. That included telling party officials who are meant to be impartial to drum up support for the preferred candidate, handing over local party membership lists weeks or even months earlier to that candidate, and manipulating the postal votes.
The consequences of that high-jacking of the party are still being felt. Behind the scenes the influence, and organisational activity, of the Blairites remains considerable. One has to question whether the dropping of Nick Brown (who was always close to Gordon Brown) reflects that influence. Or whether the sidelining of Ed Balls (also always close to Gordon Brown), so obviously the most suitable candidate for Shadow Chancellor, in favour of the Blairite Alan Johnson, also reflects that malign influence.
Ed Miliband has a big task pulling the party – and the Shadow Cabinet – out of the grip of New Labour and its remaining Blairite adherents. He needs help from all sides because unless he succeeds, the chances of Labour winning the next election will be hugely diminished.