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Doubts over Trident as Jim Murphy is demoted

East Renfrewshire MP Jim Murphy. Picture: TSPL

East Renfrewshire MP Jim Murphy. Picture: TSPL

  • by DAVID MADDOX
 

SCOTTISH MP Jim Murphy has been demoted from shadow defence secretary to the international development brief, as Labour leader Ed Miliband used his reshuffle for a cull of Blairites.

The move for Mr Murphy has raised questions over whether Labour is planning to drop its support for renewing Trident.

Mr Murphy also hinted his new job would leave him with more time on his hands, saying he had agreed to take a more prominent role in the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.

Two fellow Blairites – former shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg and ex-shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne – were removed altogether from the top team. Mr Byrne was given a shadow ministerial job at higher education while Mr Twigg became shadow constitutional affairs minister.

Their removal has been linked by some to Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who wrote in a newspaper last year: “Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg and now Ed Balls: four horsemen of the austerity apocalypse.”

Sources close to Mr Miliband insisted there had been no consultation with the union boss about the changes and denied they represented a clear-out of shadow cabinet Blairites.

“I think you will find we have gone a lot past the days of factionalism,” one said, adding that Mr Murphy remained a member of the shadow cabinet, while Mr Byrne and Mr Twigg were both happy with their new positions.

But Tory chairman Grant Shapps tweeted: “Discussing how our #reshuffle is designed to support hardworking ppl, whilst Ed Miliband’s is designed to satisfy Len McCluskey.”

A Labour insider stressed there was “no change in policy on Trident”, but several senior Labour sources privately raised concerns.

It is understood some within Labour are pressing for a review of its policy of supporting Trident’s renewal, and a coalition deal with the Lib Dems after the 2015 election could mean scrapping the nuclear deterrent. Mr Murphy has been a strong advocate of renewing Trident.

One senior Labour source said: “There is a flicker of a change of policy on Trident being behind this move. I am concerned about it. If we do change policy, it will cause serious ructions. I really hope we don’t have to go through that debate again.”

In a further sign of a “purge of the Blairites” Mr Miliband appointed Wayne David – who was involved in the plot to remove Tony Blair in 2006 – as his parliamentary private secretary.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander was the one Blairite to keep his job, and has also been put in charge of the party’s election strategy.

Meanwhile, Margaret Curran survived in her post as shadow Scottish secretary.

Question marks were raised over Labour’s continued support for the “High Speed 2” rail link north from London, with former shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle swapping jobs with Mary Creagh at environment.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham also survived, despite speculation he would be sacked over his alleged involvement in the Mid Staffs scandal.

Labour sources said 44 per cent of the shadow cabinet were now women, while 31 per cent had been elected only in 2010.

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