Duncan’s Economic Blog

Labour’s Economic Team

Posted in Uncategorized by duncanseconomicblog on September 28, 2010

There has been an awful lot of debate on the Shadow Chancellorship over the past 48 hours. All of the three leading candidates have strengths.

Ed Balls is an obvious choice – I’ve outlined the case before.

David Miliband, as I’ve argued, has outlined a policy-heavy, detailed alternative Social Democratic model of political economy for Labour.

Yvette Cooper is another strong contender – an excellent economist, possessing relevant experience and a strong media and Parliamentary performer. On Budget day, back in June, she was very impressive – actually sitting down with a copy of the Red Book and helping party staff go through it.

Aside from these three, we shouldn’t forget Liam Byrne who is, yet another, strong media performer with an excellent knowledge of the economic brief. (And that note was clearly a joke – move on).

As I argued yesterday, I think the extent of division on deficit reduction has been overplayed. That makes sense in the context of a leadership election, but now is time to unite around what we all agree on – Osborne is cutting too fast, too much and is a danger to growth.

But in all this talk of the Shadow Chancellorship, we seem to be forgetting the over big economic role – BIS.

I’d like to see a “big name” getting that brief – in many ways outlining Labour’s growth strategy is going to be more important than the traditional job of the Shadow Chancellor. And it will require a great deal of political skill – shadowing Cable is a lot more complex than shadowing Osborne. We need someone in this role who can both develop a pro-growth strategy and has the ability to critically engage with Cable, rather than blindly opposing him – supporting him at times and backing him against the rest of the Cabinet.

With one of the four above at the Exchequer and another at BIS, together with a fresh face as Shadow Chief Secretary, Labour would have a very credible economic team in place. But whoever is in that team, we need to learn from the experience of the Blair/Brown years – economic policy shouldn’t be he intellectual reserve of the Shadow Treasury team, the entire party (not least the Leader!) need to be kept closely involved.

4 Responses

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  1. Tom P said, on September 28, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Good call on the BIS brief. Gets oddly overlooked most of the time, yet it’s where a lot of interesting policy arises (it’s where the Coalition’s short-termism/takeovers stuff will come from) and as such it can be important.

    I guess part of this lack of interest stems from people assuming BIS will be decimated when the cuts really start. But given it’s the one place where the LDs have some power that might not be a sensible assumption to make.

  2. Tom said, on September 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I’ve thought for a long time that David Miliband would be excellent at BIS.

    While the differences on deficit reduction might not be huge, they are there, so it makes more sense for Ed Miliband to appoint someone like Yvette Cooper (my personal choice) or Ed Balls as shadow chancellor. Those two are also better on economic detail than David M. But, as you say, David does have a strong model of a political economy, one that’s jobs-centred and that doesn’t clash too much with the Balls/Cooper/MiliE sort of position on the deficit. And he’s a good Commons performer, who could do very well against Cable. I think it’s also a sufficiently senior position, especially having been Peter Mandelson’s old job, that it wouldn’t be too much of a demotion for David, in the way that something like transport or even defence would be.

    The only possible issue is I’m not sure how strong David is on the science part of the BIS brief, though I’m sure a suitable shadow science minister could be appointed beneath him.

  3. Tom said, on September 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Incidentally, I’m surprised to see your praise for Liam Byrne. Even before the thing with the note – which was clearly a joke, yes, but has still hurt his credibility and which I’m sure the government will keep bringing up – I’d never been much of a fan. He seemed to be a very one-role performer: a decent attack dog, but nothing else.


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