Tom Richmond: Miliband must manage his top team to create a united front

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Oh dear. Things must be bad for Ed Miliband for John Prescott to feel the need to wade in and call on him to show the red card to those shadow Ministers who are failing to make their mark.

Matrimonial matters aside, Prescott demonstrated considerable loyalty during his 10 years as Tony Blair’s deputy prime minister but he has used the summer season to make his political presence felt by having a dig at the party’s current leader.

Yet the former Hull East MP’s intervention immediately backfired when he wrote these words: “There are millions of people looking to us as the only alternative to this heartless coalition. So my message to Ed is this: You’re our Alex Ferguson.”

Alex Ferguson? The most successful British football manager in history? I don’t think so. The Doncaster North MP’s leadership has been so lacklustre that he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes under a Fergie regime before being given the “hair dryer” treatment and told to pull up his socks.

After all, Sir Alex was a born winner whose force of personality transformed the fortunes of Manchester United Football Club. He had a vision of greatness. In comparison, Miliband finds his leadership compromised because he has failed to win the respect of his own party – never mind the country at large.

A more realistic footballing analogy would be to compare him to the England manager Roy Hodgson, who is a likable and cerebral individual without the players to make an impact on the international stage.

Yet, as Miliband contemplates a reshuffle of his shadow Ministers, he needs to remember these points.

First, any shake-up will be deemed to be a failure if he does not move Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham from their posts – both are divisive figures who carry too much political baggage from the last Labour government.

Second, although Sir Alex’s success was built around the emergence of a pool of gifted young players like Paul Scholes, David Beckham and the Neville brothers, Miliband should resist the temptation to over-promote political novices. He needs to use the experience of people like Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, and ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson who is a Hull MP. Both men still have much to offer while David Blunkett, as Labour chairman, could still be a useful political “attack dog”.

Third, a reshuffle is pointless unless he is prepared to stop opposing the coalition for opposition’s sake, stand up to the trade unions and explain how he will make the nation more prosperous without compromising the public finances.

Unless he does so, it won’t be under-performing politicians being given the metaphorical red card by Prescott but Miliband himself.

Two down, with the clock ticking, time is running out for the Labour leader.

MEMO to Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Trust where chief executive Karen Jackson’s £25,000 salary increase means she now earns £170,000 a year – despite her hospitals being placed in “special measures” for care failings. She would not need a small army of marketing, communications and PR staff – managers paid for by the taxpayer – if so much time was not having to be spent defending Ms Jackson’s reputation, and those instances where a shortage of medical staff led to ambulance crews treating A&E patients.

Having earned unprecedented powers of autonomy after securing “foundation trust” status, I’m afraid the only answer is a clear-out of the top tier of management and a fresh start.

In light of the increasing dismay about the pay and perks paid to public sector top brass, I’d also be expecting this troubled Trust – and others – to be incentive-led. In short, recipients would only receive an agreed bonus if certain performance criteria were met.

The problem is that many public servants are already earning obscene salaries and then expecting other benefits to be paid in addition. This was illustrated by those Whitehall officials who want the public purse to pick up the tax liability on their transport arrangements.

If these individuals are competent, and confident in their abilities, they should have nothing to fear from a salary package that makes them work for any bonuses or perks. After all, it is what happens in the real world.

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ANOTHER week and still no apology from those who squandered tens of millions of pounds on South Yorkshire’s fundamentally flawed Digital Region project.

Personally, I’m not sure how their consciences allow them to sleep at night – or is it that they simply do not care about their scandalous misuse of taxpayers’ money in one of Yorkshire’s costliest ever public sector failures?

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ON the mea culpa front, Stuart Broad defended his Ashes gamesmanship by saying he is “proud” of the England cricket team’s “win-at-all-costs mentality” and that he “knew” that he hit the ball which caused so much consternation.

I hope cricket lovers remember this when Broad next tries to flog one of his books – such an attitude should have no place in the gentleman’s game.

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MORE woe for Ukip after the embarrassment of Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom’s highly offensive “Bongo Bongo Land” remarks.

Party treasurer Stuart Wheeler has dismissed the notion of women sitting on the boards of top firms, saying: “Business is very, very competitive and you should take the performance of women in another competitive area, which is sport where men have no strength advantage.

“Chess, bridge, poker – women come absolutely nowhere. I think that just has to be borne in mind.”

How patronising. On this basis, Margaret Thatcher would never have become Prime Minister with the Eurosceptic values – and instincts of a housewife balancing the weekly budget – that are supposed to be part of Ukip’s appeal.

Obviously not.

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AS Mo Farah produced one of the runs
of his life to defend his 5,000 metres 
world title, a colleague nudged my shoulder and said: “We’re quite good 
at sport.”

I concurred. And then he added: “Except football.” Too right.

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