Region’s MPs on Labour fast track

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves
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TWO of Yorkshire’s newest MPs have been promoted to Labour’s top table less than 18 months after winning their seats after Ed Miliband fast-tracked the “class of 2010” into his Shadow Cabinet.

Former Bank of England economist Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, will help lead Labour’s attack on the Government’s economic policy as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Ed Balls’s number two.

And Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher, a former aide to Gordon Brown in Downing Street, said he will “take the fight” to the Government after being invited to attend shadow cabinet meetings in a campaigning role as minister without portfolio.

In total, five MPs elected for the first time in 2010 take seats in the shadow cabinet after Mr Miliband took advantage of new Labour rules which allow him to pick his top team rather than relying on a parliamentary party election.

Former Shadow Health Secretary John Healey, MP for Wentworth, was one of the highest profile figures to quit after 10 years on the front bench, with Andy Burnham taking on the job. Ex cabinet Ministers John Denham and Shaun Woodward also stood down as Mr Miliband seeks to build a more youthful team capable of wounding the coalition amid frustration the party has failed to make more progress in his first year as leader.

Ms Reeves and new Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, both 32, led the surge of new talent promoted by Doncaster North MP Mr Miliband in a reshuffle which sees 10 Yorkshire MPs among the 31 who will attend Shadow Cabinet meetings.

Several other of the region’s MPs find themselves in new roles with Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett becoming Shadow Cabinet Office minister, Don Valley’s Caroline Flint moving to Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn taking her old job as Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary.

Phone-hacking campaigner Tom Watson joins the shadow cabinet as deputy chair and campaign co-ordinator while Stephen Twigg, a Schools Minister under Tony Blair who returned to Westminster last year after losing his seat in 2005, becomes Shadow Education Secretary.

Mr Miliband said: “My decision to appoint half a dozen members of the 2010 intake shows the talent that Labour has and the way in which this new generation can join us in taking Labour’s agenda forward.”

Ms Reeves said she was “really excited” to take on a “massive job. “It‘s a big responsibility and really important the Labour Party put forward an alternative to this Government‘s strategy which is making the situation worse not better,” she said.

“As well as my experience as an MP I’ll be able to bring 10 years’ experience in economics and finance.”

Meanwhile Mr Healey said standing down had been a “big decision” but he wanted to devote more time to his wife and 16-year-old son.

“It was my decision,” he said, rejecting rumours he had been offered a different job.

“I made the decision well ahead of the reshuffle.”

He also pledged Mr Miliband his full support and said he would not rule out a return to the front bench in the future. “I’ve been in frontline politics for more than a decade and it’s the family that makes a lot of sacrifices. With our son Alex now starting sixth-form he’s only going to be with us at home for another two years so this is the time for the first time to put them first.”

But Conservative Party Chairman Sayeeda Warsi accused Ed Miliband of being a “weak leader who has learnt nothing” by appointing former allies of Gordon Brown.

Comment: Page 14.