I am still stunned from the announcement that Alan Johnson is to be Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only reason I can see for this is as a sop to the David Miliband supporters. The rumours were that Ed had offered David the Shadow Chancellor's position if he wanted it. Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls were considered to be vying for this job, and seemed untouchable. Both have solid economic backgrounds, and have impressed recently in this area.
Yet, Ed Miliband seems to have fluffed it. I hate having to say this, but it can only be a political appointment. I know Osborne isn't very impressive, but I can see champagne corks being popped in No.11 on hearing this news. With the greatest respect to Alan Johnson who in the main has been effective in his previous cabinet positions, he's not an economist. Being a 'safe pair of hands' is not a sufficient criterion for selecting your Chancellor when you have such an abundance of talent available it seems, frankly, stupid to not make use of it. On an economic front, Alan Johnson's best card was probably his view on the deficit. He has stated time and again that he supported the Alistair Darling plan, and as time goes on that plan is looking more and more sensible.
Other than that the only reasons I can see for doing it is as a sop to the David Miliband supporters, ten of whom got elected to the cabinet, but with the top four positions going to supporters of other candidates, Cooper, Healey and Balls, who supported Ed Balls, and Andy Burnham, he must have felt a David supporter should be in one of the big positions, and Johnson was the most substantial David Miliband supporter elected.
It does, however, mean that two big hitting former Cabinet ministers, are free to take on two of the best and most effective government ministers. Whether you agree with the reforms or not, Theresa May has so far been a pretty safe pair of hands at the Home Office, and Ed Balls is just the man to take her on over the reforms to the police that she envisages. I can imagine looking forward to Home Office questions, as two big beasts go toe to toe.
William Hague should be Prime Minister, if you have to have a Tory led government, then you want the best available. Unlike Conservatives, who seem unable to appreciate the abilities of others, something which will lead to them looking daft time and time again, I can recognise that Hague is supremely gifted, and has hitherto been a very good Foreign Secretary.
Yvette Cooper (my original pick for leader) is in the same position of being supremely gifted. It is disappointing that she will not be Chancellor, but this will give her a real opportunity to gain an international reputation, and to be honest, I don't see her and Hague disagreeing fundamentally on foreign policy. This will raise Yvette Cooper's profile considerably in the public eye, as the superb job she did at Work and pensions, in government and opposition, has been largely confined to the political spectrum.
When it comes to the lesser positions, Harriet Harman has been ill-served with International Development, as although an important portfolio, her performance as acting leader earned her a much higher profile position. Andy Burnham's moving to education is interesting, as health and education are both areas of high priority for the coalition to ruin...sorry reform. Perhaps it will come out over the next few days, but it is possible Andy Burnham was asked if he wanted to stay, or move to education, and wished to prove himself in a different portfolio.
On all the other appointments, we will just have to wait and see how they perform. Caroline Flint will want to do well at Communities, in order to prove she's not just 'window dressing,' and being up against Eric the red will give her ample opportunity. John Denham is very experienced, and will be a good foil for Cable at Business, whilst John Healey who rather surprisingly came second in the poll, has been thrown in at the deep end at health. Mind you, probably the most sensible decision was to tuck Liam Byrne away in the cabinet office, as his note on leaving office, a very bad joke, will follow him for some time.
So overall, has Ed Miliband passed his second test, taking into account the hand that was given him? A C is the best I can manage at the moment, with a re-mark up or down as an option depending on how he, and his appointees perform. It is very early days, and reasons will become clearer over the next few days, but I think the government will be a bit puzzled, but not exactly quaking in theri boots at the moment, and that Hague and May, will be looking forward to being severely tested.