Since my last post on Clegg’s frontbench reshuffled caused such a stir, I thought I ought to at least comment on the finalisation of his team.
Firstly, on the question that adding the names makes the teams too large, I don’t accept this. The Shadow Ministers have limited roles to focus on specific areas; there is no question, as far as I am aware, of them taking a lead on issues. They are there to deputise primarily. While there is certainly an argument that the party should focus on pushing a handful of personalities – just the leader even – rather than a wide and potentially confusing group, we still need a team in size roughly equivalent to the government and Tory front benches simply to keep abreast of things.
Secondly, and I have to admit to knowing this shortly after my last post, but it is nice to see Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott on the list. I would rather see them doing substantial roles such as FCO and Justice than to be given totemic roles such as women, equalities and youth. The tendency to push women into these “soft” positions, while often well meaning, undermines them. It is one of the reasons why I view London Young Labour’s attempts to portray them as martyrs with such contempt.
Thirdly, it is interesting to see Evan Harris’ return from the wilderness. Shadow Minister for Science is an ideal role for him and I wish him well.
Fourthly, the absence of a culture minister is noteworthy. This means that Don Foster is covering the whole brief, from television through to the Olympics. Whilst this is possibly not the most crucial area of policy going, it does look as if it has been given a very low status by Clegg. By contrast I view this brief as an opportunity, if used creatively, to reach out to people normally uninterested in politics. I don’t think Don Foster has been doing that and I certainly can’t see him being able to do so if he has to do all the spadework himself.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Evan Harris was already Shadow Science Minister and thus this isn’t a promotion for him. Apologies (this, Omar, is called making a correction).
It isn’t just me who gets my facts wrong however; the Guardian describes Jo Swinson as the previous spokes on youth issues. ARGH!