September 15: Corbyn’s rag-tag shadow cabinet may struggle

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The signs suggest the new Labour leader’s team are not up to the job.

RHETORIC is one thing, but building an effective opposition is quite another, and the signs are not encouraging that the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his frontbench team are up to the job.

His shadow cabinet has about it the air of being a rag-tag group, assembled more according to cronyism and who is willing to serve under the most left-wing leader Labour has ever had than put in place because of talent.

In particular, the appointment of John McDonnell as shadow chancellor – against the wishes of many within Labour – appears more a favour by Mr Corbyn to a close friend who ran his campaign, than an act of mature political judgement.

Mr McDonnell’s vociferous criticism of financiers, and his stated dislike of capitalism, must make it well-nigh impossible for him to build the meaningful working relationships with business that are such a central part of the shadow chancellor’s role if he or she is to set their party on the road to government.

There is also a notable lack of experience in the frontbench team, though Mr Corbyn’s options have been limited by the number of senior figures who have declined to serve under him, and that does not bode well for taking on a Conservative cabinet full of seasoned ministers.

The acceptance by Andy Burnham, the runner-up in the leadership contest, of the shadow home secretary brief may prove divisive. Some within Labour will see him as a conciliatory figure who can bridge the gap between right and left, but others are likely to view him with suspicion as an opportunist.

Effective opposition is vital for our democracy and the responsibility of holding the Government to account a matter of the utmost seriousness. There must be questions over whether Mr Corbyn and his team can fulfil that role.

Farewell Brian

Cricket mourns a titan

CRICKET lovers throughout Yorkshire, and across the world, will be saddened by the death of Brian Close at the age of 84.

He truly was a titan of the game. No more fearless and tenacious batsman ever stepped up to the crease, no more determined bowler ever ran in, and no captain of county or country displayed a more resolute will to win.

His was a career of both extraordinary achievement and remarkable longevity, garlanded with glory. His first-class playing days spanned 37 years, only coming to an end when he was 55, a feat unlikely to be matched.

Close made history by becoming the youngest player ever to be selected for England at the age of 18, and then unexpectedly found himself recalled at 45 when the national side desperately needed his legendary toughness to face the ferocious West Indies pace attack in 1976.

Even when his playing days were over, he had more left to give to the game he loved, mentoring the young.

His fellow cricketers revered his competiveness and admired his unswerving sportsmanship. He was an exciting player, and crowds leaned forward expectantly when he strode out from the pavilion with either bat or ball.

Close, of course, holds a special place in Yorkshire hearts for his captaincy of the all-conquering county side of the 1960s, with its four championship victories and the team that included Geoffrey Boycott, Fred Trueman and Raymond Illingworth.

Happily, he lived long enough to see Yorkshire lift the championship for a second consecutive year just a few days ago.

Pound nation

Country embraces cheap shops

THE spectacular 130 per cent leap in profits at Poundworld, which started life on a Yorkshire market stall, is proof positive that the nation has embraced a shopping concept it once regarded with a degree of snobbery.

Budget chains were often seen as the province of the poor, places where the more affluent classes preferred not to be seen. But the 2008 financial crash and the economic slump that followed changed all that.

Straitened circumstances sent people into the pound shops in search of a bargain irrespective of their social status, and they have continued to go, shrugging off what they have come to see as an absurd attitude towards them.

Just as with the rise of the discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl, so the pound shops have come of age, which is good news for shoppers, the businesses, and the increasing numbers of staff whose wages they pay.