Ed Miliband, having won the right to secure a Shadow Cabinet entirely drawn from his own appointments, has now had the chance for the first time to show his political hand in his selections. Surprisingly he has increased the proportion of Blairites from a third (under the previous system of election) to half. Since his own orientation is centre-Left, this has to be explained as placating a faction which remains very numerous (arguably a majority) within the PLP and is well organised and extremely well-funded. Lord Sainsbury, a strong supporter of the Blairite Tendency, stopped funding Labour when Ed Miliband won the leadership, and transferred his affections – and more importantly, his money – to the Blairite pressure group, Progress. It goes without saying of course that if the Left had carried out a similar manoeuvre, it would have been disallowed as running a party within a party and any Left equivalent of Progress would have been disbanded.
The Balls camp within the Shadow Cabinet has also been increased. It now numbers about a fifth of its members. The remainder, who can be broadly described as the Miliband camp, form about a third of the total. The Leader therefore, even after switching from elections to his own personal appointments, remains in a minority in his own Shadow Cabinet. Another dimension of this freshly appointed body is the Left-Right split among its members. In many ways this is more important, and more revealing, than the proportions of the various personalised affiliations. The division is quite staggering. The Right hold about 17 of the 27 seats, the centre-Left 9, and the Left just 1 (Jon Trickett).
This exposes several important facts. First, it shows the huge degree that Thatcher pulled the Labour Party to the Right, the relentlessness with which Blair continued this distortion of the party’s principles to reinforce his own power, and how far this Tendency within the party remains embedded in a dominat position. Second, it shows how little progress Ed Miliband has so far made in wrenching the party back to the Labour centre-ground and how far the leading personnel in the new young PLP remain firmly pitched on the Right. Third, it reveals how far the PLP remains disconnected from its activist supporters within both the constituencies and the the unions. The Westminster Bubble has been yanked to the neo-liberal Right and the Labour Party, which should be standing apart from this and proclaiming the alternative ideology which it has always been its historic role to fight for, is still too much part of the discredited ancien regime now busted by the financial crash of 2008-9 and the fast-approaching global depression.