IN THE never-ending soap opera of family feuds, rivalries and backstabbing that is the Labour Party, MPs are preparing themselves for the traditional bloodletting that is a shadow cabinet reshuffle as they return to parliament this week.
It is thought that Ed Miliband may have decided the shape of his reshuffle over last weekend had it not been for the Syrian crisis, but whatever his timing, it appears that the Labour leader’s hands are more tied now than when the initial briefs and rumours began. Despite defeating the government on a major policy issue, Mr Miliband has had a rotten summer where his leadership came under constant attack from within his party.
From the top team, it now seems that the deeply unpopular shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, who wrote the infamous “there’s no money left” letter, is for the chop. His likely replacement is Rachel Reeves, the No. 2 in the treasury team, but other Blairites in the shadow cabinet who had a target on their backs may now be safe. There had been talk of Jim Murphy being demoted or even sacked from defence but he now seems to be staying. However, after flopping with the launch of a new schools policy, fellow Blairite shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg could still be in trouble.
Mr Miliband would probably want to get rid of shadow chancellor Ed Balls, but in a sign of how weak his position is, he cannot do it. But there may be a change at health, with Andy Burnham being moved sideways after the damage done by the Mid Staff report.
The other job which has drawn some speculation is shadow Scottish Secretary, a position held by Margaret Curran. There was heavy briefing against her two months ago, mainly because many fellow MPs felt she was too close and aquiescent to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont. The consensus is that she will probably stay, although Stirling MP Anne McGuire’s name has been linked with the post, as has former MSP Cathy Jamieson and Anas Sarwar, who has impressed as Scottish deputy leader, and is expected to end up in the shadow Scottish team.
The limit on what he can do to the shadow cabinet could see Mr Miliband breaking up teams of the awkward squad. This could be bad news for two Scottish MPs in the defence team Gemma Doyle and Russell Brown, who could be moved sideways or even end up on the backbenches. The same fate may await Glasgow North East MP Willie Bain in the Scottish team.
But some of the “golden generation” of the 2010 Scottish intake are thought to be on the up. Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch MP Gregg McClymont has hugely impressed in the pensions brief as has Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Tom Greatrex in energy, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray in the shadow business role and Ms Jamieson in the Treasury team. The only argument for not promoting them is that it might damage the referendum effort. Dunfermline MP Thomas Docherty looks set to get a job.