The Invisibles. Why have the Shadow Cabinet disappeared from sight?

5 Feb 2015 at 12:13

I didn’t sleep very well last night, so rather than count sheep I decided that it would be more soporific to count members of the Shadow Cabinet. Sadly, it kept me awake as I found it very difficult to name most of them, let alone what on earth their policies were.

The two Eds were easy. The first hopeless and the other a bully. Both are deficit deniers, both are wedded to an unworkable and unpopular mansion tax. And their latest wheeze is to tax the wicked hedge funds. The trouble with this bit of uncosted populism is that according to the Centre For Policy Studies this will be a tax on savings and pensions. So like their old boss and mentor, Gordon Brown, those on private pensions will be clobbered again by a Labour government.

Andy Burnham at health was a bit of a doddle. He’s in denial about the role he and Labour played in sensibly encouraging private providers. As distinguished economist and Labour peer Lord Desai remarked the other day, as long as the NHS is free at the point of delivery and there is quality and value for money, it really doesn’t matter who provides the services. Poor old Andy, the former Andrex puppy has tried to transform himself into a Rottweiler, but ends up looking like a UNITE poodle. We will all fondly remember his car crash on Newsnight when he could not explain why the only part of the NHS that is run by Labour, Wales, is a total shambles.

Tristran Hunt at education then came to mind. A really nice guy but seems in an eternal state of amiable bemusement. Is he for or against Free Schools? I haven’t fathomed this. And neither has he.

Then there is Chuka Umunna at business. Sleek, oiled, dangerously handsome and straight out of a GQ fashion plate. The sort of chap who can’t pass a mirror or any reflected surface without having a self satisfied peek. And you can smell the ambition at fifty feet. He probably farts Armani. The trouble is that his role is to reassure business that Labour is their friend. At that he has spectacularly failed. In the last few day the captains of industry have warned that Labour policies would would be a disaster with the probability that companies would flee the country.

Lastly, I remembered Yvette Cooper who has the incredible capability in debate of running the full gamut of her emotions from A to B. She is regularly touted as a candidate for the leadership. To me that is one of life’s many mysteries.

And that’s about it. I haven’t a clue who is at Defence, DEFRA, Communities, DCMS. I know Rachel Reeves does something, but I’m not sure what. She is always on the telly though.

So why in election year are the majority of the Shadow Cabinet invisible? Incompetence? Lack of motivation? That horrible dread feeling that they are going to be trashed at the election? Heaven knows, maybe all three.

The Scottish polls must have had a chilling effect. Poor Jim Murphy, a rather decent sort, is a committed Blairite who is trying to pretend to be more socialist than the SNP which is a very tall order. I hadn’t realised until the devolution debates that Scottish Labour, unlike their English counterparts, want to scrap Trident. Barmy. What a mess.

Now ‘Tory collaborators’ (thanks Prezza), wicked right wingers such as Milburn, Hutton and Mandelson are just trying to remind Ed, that Blair, governing from a tad left of centre, must have been doing something right as he is the most successful election leader Labour has ever had. The big tent has turned into a rather isolated tepee where the peace pipe is nowhere to be found.

Then this morning dear old Danny Alexander came up with a great wheeze to try and capture the youth vote, end universal benefits for pensioners. Bonkers. Piss off the pensioners at your peril. They vote in droves whereas by and large, the young can’t be arsed.

The Labour manifesto will make the 1983 ‘suicide note’ seem like a middle of the road stroll in the park.