By Iain Dale & Brian Brivati
Cometh the Labour Party Conference, cometh the new Guru. Aside from watching continuous reruns of Bill Clinton’s miraculous speech/sermon/lecture nominating Obama, the top two Ed’s in our list (Miliband and Balls) are still searching for the narrative. So this year it is the Relationship Society. This is not an online dating service. It is Ed Miliband’s (new) big idea. Its author, Michael Sandel, the Harvard Philosophy, will even address conference on the moral limits of markets. Two years ago it was Blue Labour and Maurice Glasman (down to 85th). Rather than clutter the list we have not included the good Professor, as he will probably be dispensed with shortly. Sandel’s ideas will fill the narrative space as we await the full results of Jon Cruddas’s (up 32 places to 3) policy review of the policy review started by Liam Byrne’s (down 51 places to 73) policy review of all policy. There is no real hurry. Ed’s crew lead in the polls as the only viable alternative not because people have been overwhelmed by their performance this year but because they have been so underwhelmed by the coalition. That will not, of course, be enough to win. The election will be much closer unless the Labour Party rediscovers its Blair gene for a simple winning formula. Can Ed number two, (unchanged in second place) deliver that message?
The two Eds, like the Two Ronnies, have distinctive personalities and appearances but the same essential talent. They are intellectually gifted, professional politicians. They at the top of a top ten that has only one person on it who has not spent their entire life in politics or thinking about politics. That one exception is, tellingly, Len McClusky, who was a docker for 11 years before becoming a full time trade unionist. McClusky, a onetime supporter of the Militant Tendency, has risen 23 places to 4. His importance in the fight against the cuts and in bank rolling Labour’s general election will make his influence grow and grow as we slide through the second half of the Parliament. Of the others, the professional politician who has improved most over the year, and who is the shining star in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, is Chuka Umunna - speed of delivery, clarity and tenacity make his a star media performer: he would be the top scorer if this were a premiership side. He might be an opposition angel who fades in government but for now he is tipped for the very top. With climbing the greasy poll in mind, the charming, competent and effective Stephen Twigg has had a good year, back in at 60 for his offensive against Michael Gove.
Though Twigg will be forever young from that moment he defeated Michael Portillo in 1997, he is in fact an elder statesman. Talent has begun to come through from the New Generation. Rachel Reeves (up to 27 from 64) and Stella Creasy (up from 71 to 38) have continued to make their marks this year as the picks of the 2010 intake. While a crustier pair of the old guard have slipped back a little - Jim Murphy (down to 15th from 8th ) and Douglas Alexander (down from 19th to 9th)- Given the preponderance of Scottish MPs at the top of the party it is doubtful if the days of the Scottish mafia are actually over. So in the run up to the election expect to see these two playing a more central role as Labour try and fail to make the election about the team. The election will be as Presidential as ever. So where is President Blair? He has, along with a number of other key players of the old guard, like Alastair Campbell (down from 58th to 36th), slipped back a little to 23rd. We should note that having clung on at 99th position last year, Peter Mandelson has, for the first time since these lists begun, slipped out of the top one hundred. Perhaps there should be a moment’s silence.
Outside the Parliamentary party the think tankers and journalists remain heavily represented but it is a journalist who is working in the party, Bob Roberts, former political editor of the Mirror, who is the biggest climber (up to 16th). The other members of Ed’s team who have improved the running and impact of the leader’s office also feature heavily in the list, especially Torsten Henrickson-Bell who is responsible for rebuttal and climbs to 49th. The process story of the year has been the organisation and management of Ed Miliband and this has improved discipline and effectiveness of the leader’s operation.
Coming in at 18, is Frances O’Grady, the general secretary designate of the TUC. Her elevation to the top of the TUC could provide many political headaches for the government. She has developed a line of sweet reasonableness in her approach; a great deal of “more in sorry than in anger”, “all we want is hope” that is extremely difficult to counter. Presenting her as one of small tightly knit group of politically motivated revolutionaries simply will not fly and the coalition has not found a media message to neutralist her - yet. She has had an excellent year with much more to come.
The same level of activity has sadly been seen from George Galloway. His Scottish accent now disappears altogether at times on his internet show as he tries to talk like an Iranian except when he is haranguing members of his audience who disagree with him, when the Scots comes back in. There was a time when if you asked a Socialist Worker a question they could not answer they rushed off to ask their political officer what line to take. Nowadays they just seem to phone Tehran. His place at 57 reflects his hold on what we would once have had to call the “hard left” but which is now really just a hotchpotch of pro-Iranians and crude anti-westerns.
2012 will forever be the year of the Olympics. Brand Labour had a good Olympics in more ways than one. Multicultural Britain shone through the Olympic summer. The inspirational Paralympics contrasted starkly with the benefit cutting coalition. Most of all the opening ceremony was a Party Election Broadcast for Labour Britain. Danny Boyle comes in at number 17 of our list and should expect a peerage and plenty of the commissions from the party in due course. Boyle’s dancing NHS represented a simple and direct articulation of a complex argument. That is what Labour needs. Long after we have forgotten what the Relationship Society was, we will remember the synchronised beds. Even the genius of the rising towers and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, all seemed very much Labour Britain. And it was Great Britain - as Alex Salmond (down to 6th this year) will have noted - and not England that triumphed. So all in all, the real star of the left in 2012 was Danny Boyle.
- ( ) Ed Miliband
Leader of the Labour Party
He may still not pass the ‘can you imagine him on the steps of Number Ten test’, but there’s no doubt about it, Ed Miliband has had a good year. He’s set the political weather on a number of issues and has found his feet at Prime Ministers Questions. He’s also seen off any prospect of a leadership challenge and stood up to his Shadow Chancellor. Labour’s opinion poll lead is not as high as Tony Blair achieved, but as things stand today, he could well be Britain’s next Prime Minister.
- ( ) Ed Balls
Ed Balls continue to impress and whatever your views are on his recipe for recovery, he’s omnipresent on the media and is adept at displaying a more human side to his character. However, his odd jibe at Ed Miliband has been returned in kind, and he seems to have accepted that Miliband will remain leader. One of the few politicians who can get under David Cameron’s skin.
- (+32) Jon Cruddas
Policy Review Coordinator
When Jon Cruddas was appointed by Miliband as Policy Review Coordinator and invited to the Shadow Cabinet, he instantly became one of the most influential people in the Labour Party. Cruddas is an original thinker and has a mammoth task ahead of him. It’s more than merely drawing up a list of policies, it’s giving Labour and particularly Ed Miliband a new identity. The main focus will be to reconnect with working class and identify with patriotism and tradition. So far all we’ve heard about is “predistribution”. Cruddas will need to come up with a few better ideas than that if he is to convince the electorate, rather than his fellow left of centre politicians.
- (+23) Len McCluskey
General Secretary of Unite
Since Ed Miliband became leader Len McCluskey's union Unite has donated £5m to the Labour Party, confirming its position as Labour’s dominant funder. When “Red Len” was elected it signalled a victory of the hard left faction as they took control of the super union. McCluskey’s views worry many in the Labour Party as Unite is such a big player and has considerable influence, often speaking publicly against the Labour leader’s policy. Miliband faces a dilemma; he needs Unite’s money but can’t appear to be close to McCluskey and his calls for industrial action.
- (-2) Yvette Cooper
Shadow Home Secretary
Despite an uneventful year for Cooper, many still believe she has what it takes to be the next Leader of the Labour Party. Her media performances have generally been good during what has been busy year for Theresa May with the Jubilee and the Olympics. However her partisan point scoring does wear thin. Cooper is the most influential woman within the Labour Party so if Miliband loses grip on the leadership, we could find a husband and wife team running the Labour Party.
- (-1) Alex Salmond
First Minister for Scotland
Salmond drops a place this year to reflect the bad press he received a result of cosying up to News International. The 2011 Scottish elections solidified him as the most remarkable left of centre politician in terms of elections since Tony Blair. This is why he poses such a threat with the upcoming Scottish referendum, and he still is trying to move the goalposts by adding a “devo-max” option and allowing 16 year olds to vote.
- (-) Tom Watson
Deputy Party Chair and Campaign Coordinator
The Murdoch’s most hated MP, Tom Watson was duly rewarded for his longstanding campaign against News International when Miliband created the post of Deputy Party Chair just for him. We wrote last time that after Murdoch, Watson “needs a new cause”, well he got that as he is also responsible for coordinating Labour’s campaign working alongside Jon Trickett and Michael Dugher. The resignation of Louise Mensch means a by-election in Corby, which will be seen as a test of Watson’s campaigning nouse.
- (+45) Chuka Umunna
Shadow Business Secretary
Umunna is the highest ranked member of the 2010 intake on this list and rightly so. Over the past two years he has experienced a stratospheric rise, from Ed Miliband’s PPS to his job now shadowing big beast Vince Cable at BIS. His rise has only added further to speculation that he is a future Leader of the Labour Party. Umunna can perform well under the pressure of Andrew Neil at the Beeb or Cable in the Commons, but he can fall in to the trap of taking himself too seriously.
- (-3) Harriet Harman
Deputy Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Many seem to forget that Harriet Harman is the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Her brief includes a further two roles ensuring her place in the top 10 - firstly shadowing Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, and secondly Deputy Leader of the Opposition standing in for Ed when he is away. No one can deny that she is an accomplished Commons performer and her restatements and defences of feminism have gone down very well in the party. She has become a great survivor in British politics and if Labour win the next election she will one of the key senior figures still around to run a ministry.
- (+22) Lord Wood
Shadow Minister without Portfolio
Oxford don turned Gordon Brown’s special adviser, Stewart Wood was rewarded with a peerage by Ed Miliband after failing to get a seat in the May 2010 election. His Shadow Cabinet job as Minister without Portfolio is a lot more interesting than it first sounds, acting as he does as strategic advisor to Ed Miliband. He is adept at reaching out to thinkers, academia, policy-makers, the commentariat and others to develop new thinking and fresh ideas.
- (+1) Andrew Rawnsley
Chief Political Commentator, The Observer
Rawnsley survived the change of government with many sources intact and many others welcoming the chance for a free lunch - post expenses. His last book was well received and his columns continue to combine analysis with well-informed gossip. He has been described as “The Peter Jenkins of his generation”. However, his weakness is Europe. He advocated entry to the euro ten years ago and now, for some strange reason seems unable to write about the subject as well.
- (+11)Margaret Hodge
Chairman, Public Accounts Committee
Margaret Hodge has made more comebacks than Lazarus. Another year flying up the rankings in this list, predominantly due to her strong performance in her role as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Hardly a day goes by without a quote by Hodge in the papers or a clip on the news, but Hodge always comes across as authoritative rather than overtly partisan. She is the highest ranked “backbencher” on this list.
- (+1) Polly Toynbee
Journalist & commentator
Polly Toynbee is the undisputed Queen of the Guardianistas, Her column is a must read for all self-respecting lefties, her writing has grown even more popular with her detailed and devastating critiques of the Coalition government. She recently called for Labour to think about forming a coalition with the LibDems in the likely event of another hung parliament. But is Ed Miliband is listening?
- (+5) Ian McNichol
Labour Party General Secretary
Not the leader’s first choice for General Secretary post, McNicol is a former Union executive and election agent. The election by the NEC was declared to be unanimous. Has had to cope with conflicting reports about Labour Party membership figures. Harriet Harman claimed 70,000 extra members had joined since Ed Miliband became leader, but these were flatly contradicted by official figures given to the Electoral Commission which showed the actual rise was all of 38.
- (-7) Jim Murphy
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Like his colleague Douglas Alexander, Murphy has found it difficult to really make an impact while shadowing foreign affairs. But he has been more successful than Alexander, by providing a well thought through and non-partisan opposition to some of the defence cuts. Arguing well not only at the despatch box, but in the TVs studios, the hard work of Murphy who puts more hours in than most has paid off. As a Scottish Labour MP, he will be working with his colleague Alistair Darling to ensure a unionist vote in the 2014 referendum.
- (+13) Bob Roberts
Director of Communications to Ed Miliband
The former Political Editor of the Daily Mirror joined Ed Miliband’s team two years ago December and has injected some much needed bite into the press operation. He has seen off Tom Baldwin and is now the unchallenged media strategist. Liked and respected by the lobby he has overseen a transformation in Ed Miliband’s media presence by taking a few risks, most of which have paid off.
- (NEW) Danny Boyle
Artistic Director of the Olympic Games
Oscar winning director Danny Boyle really did create “the greatest show on earth” with his weird and wonderful opening ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics Games, the Isle of Wonder. In the ceremony there were different political messages from toleration and gay kisses, to the suffragettes and multiculturalism. But the bit that really irked some right wingers was the lengthy homage to the National Health Service, which provided a better case against the NHS reforms than the Labour Party could ever have dreamed of.
- (NEW) Frances O’Grady
Next General Secretary of the TUC
Frances O’Grady will become the first female General Secretary of the TUC in their 140 year history, when Brendan Barber steps down at the end of the year. She served as Brendan’s deputy for nearly 10 years, establishing herself as an effective negotiator and great public speaker. The fact she was elected unopposed with the support of 32 out of the 54 affiliated unions, shows how highly regarded she is by the Trade Union movement. She undoubtedly has big shoes to fill, and over the next 12months we will see just how well she does.
- (-10) Douglas Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
With William Hague doing a fine job as Foreign Secretary, the space for Alexander to shine has been reduced greatly. His fall down the list is a sign that Alexander has not exactly setting the world alight. Although very competent he has yet to achieve anything that really marks him out as special. He might have the third most important job in the Shadow Cabinet, but it doesn’t give him much opportunity to perform to his best.
- (-4) Mehdi Hasan
Political Director, Huffington Post
Hasan took the risky decision this year to leave the New Statesman and join the Huffington Post website after being enticed over by Arianna herself. He was brought on as Political Director to add a bit of punch to the somewhat directionless website, showing a clear indication that the originally “non-partisan” website had changed its mind. His solid media appearances in recent years were rewarded when he was appointed as a News Presenter on Al Jazeera’s English Network.
- (-1) Sadiq Khan
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Although a good media performance, Khan has yet to establish himself to the same extent in the House of Commons. Facing a Department with a myriad of problems and a new Minister in Chris Grayling, he will want to up his performance in the next twelve months. Last year we said Khan needed to “accomplish something”. If he doesn’t soon he might find himself over taken by the talented 2010 intake.
- (+6) Alistair Darling
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer
Time has been good to Alistair Darling. Two and a half years on from the last election he is seen as an economic sage who advocated the right policy. Darling was one of the first in the Labour Party to recognize that cuts needed to be made, and has not stopped calling for them ever since. During media appearances he always seems dignified. Osborne would be wise to listen to his words on the dangers of too much quantitative easing. Darling launched the Scottish unionist campaign Better Together earlier this year, guaranteeing him a high profile in the coming months.
- (-19) Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister
Tony Blair has made an odd attempt at a comeback in British politics without really defining what he wants to come back to. He has taken on the role as Olympic Legacy advisor to the Labour Leader Ed Miliband. Blair will also be working closely with the new leadership to offer advice on policy in the run up to the next election. Maybe he can make the two Eds understand that Labour lost power only when it stopped doing exactly as he said.
- (-9) Tom Baldwin
Director of Strategy to the Leader of the Opposition
A hard living “Fleet Street” thug was brought into the leader’s office to “sort things out”. Injecting professionalism into the operation, he shifted from internal campaign mode to governing the party mode well and the coverage in volume, if not always in tone, has improved. But he has been somewhat sidelined in a new role which appears subservient to Bob Roberts’. It is Roberts who has day to day with the lobby, rather than the Marmite character of Baldwin.
- (-1) Tom Harris
Shadow Minister for the Environment
Probably the best known and best regarded blogging MP, Tom Harris was forced to resign as Labour’s social media tsar at the beginning of the year for posting a Downfall video mocking Alex Salmond. However the unavowed Blairite made a quick comeback in May when he was appointed Shadow Environment Minister. This popular MP who is one of the few who ‘gets’ why Labour lost the election, and surely deserves a place in the Shadow Cabinet in the near future.
- (-) Carwyn Jones
First Minister of Wales
No change for Carwyn Jones as he remains the most senior Labour politician in terms of elected office in the UK. Jones has openly attacked the UK government for the slow economic recovery, provoking Nick Clegg to tell him to “stop blaming London for everything” when he visited Wales. Although Jones is very popular in Wales, he has yet to properly establish himself within the wider national party.
- (+37) Rachel Reeves
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
The highest placed female on the list of the new intake of Labour MPs, Reeves rise up the greasy pole has been extraordinary. Reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher she has had voice and media training, now an accomplished performer this bright young woman can even face Paxo with confidence. Having worked as a Bank of England economist and for the think tank Demos, her economic expertise were rewarded when Ed Miliband made her Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury last October.
- (+44) Owen Jones
Owen Jones is the bright, young thing on the lefty scene at the moment. Very confident in his own abilities, he is the go to man for the media to provide 'left of Labour' views which he does with consummate skill and confidence. He updated his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, this year to include the London riots and the reaction to them after it became the biggest politics book of 2011. People underestimate this boyish commentator at their peril as demonstrated by his recent Question Time performance.
- (-11) David Miliband
Former Foreign Secretary
Another slide down the rankings this year for Ed’s brother David, although it was said by David that he turned down a Shadow Cabinet to stop constant speculation about rivalry. A biography of Ed released late last year revealed not all was as it seemed, and there really is a lot of bad blood spilt between the two brothers. Since he’s been out of the Westminster Village, David has been touring the country with his campaign group Movement for Change trying to create relationships between the party and the community while training activists. And earning lots of money as well.
- (+46) Michael Dugher
Shadow Minister without Portfolio
Dugher survived Brown’s bunker to become PPS to Ed Miliband, this year he was promoted into the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister without Portfolio. An accomplished media strategist and performer, Dugher is seen as Miliband’s ‘attack dog’ who can be rather robust at times. Although no longer PPS to Miliband, he is a close ally and has the leader’s ear if ever he needs it.
- (+11) Paul Kenny
General Secretary, GMB
The brutal politics and financial weakness of the Labour Party were made plain when Kenny endorsed Ed Miliband. He implied that if Ed did not win then GMB would withdraw its money from Labour. It was a bluff but it was also the moment at which Ed’s campaign became deadly serious. In June, the union which gives £1.4million to Labour a year, openly attacked Ed for the first time over his support of a public sector pay freeze. Kenny later called for the Blairite group Progress to be banned from the Labour Party.
- (-2) Andy Burnham
Shadow Health Secretary
Burnham was in essence a failure as Shadow Education Secretary, missing open goals in fighting Michael Gove’s education reforms and failing to create any sort of new policy. Ed Miliband reshuffled him to his natural habitat as Shadow Health Secretary, a job which he held in the last year of Brown’s government. Although he missed the fight over NHS reform legislation, he should deliver a few attacks to the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt whose job it is to implement the reforms. He performed well in responding to the Hillsborough report.
- (+16) Phil Collins
Columnist, The Times
Blair’s former speech writer has successfully transformed himself into a leading new Labour opinion forming columnist via a stint as a leading light in the think tank, DEMOS. Having been a vocal critic of Gordon Brown he is establishing himself as a man of ideas which leading Labour politicians would do well to take up. His columns in the last twelve months have set the agenda in a manner few other Labour commentators managed.
- (+11) Steve Richards
Chief Political Commentator, The Independent
Two years ago, we described Steve Richards as “a fine journalist, at the top of his game”. He continues to write pieces which make people think – and by ‘people’ we mean those at the top of the three political parties. He has the unique talent of attracting praise from all parts of the left and right. His Rock ‘n’ Roll politics show was a real hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
- (+5) David Blanchflower
Economics Editor, New Statesman
The Economics Editor of the New Statesman is also a professor at Darmouth College New Hampshire and the University of Stirling. He has consistently provided a coherent and authoritative critique of the Coalition’s austerity strategy on the economy. He has warned of the effects of the current crisis on young people, and has longed called for a Keynesian stimulus to get us out of the crisis. The Coalition won’t admit it, but are these recently announced big infrastructure projects a sign that Osborne was listening?
- (+3) Dave Prentis
General Secretary of Unison
Leader of the largest trade union in the country UNISON, Prentis has been at the job for over 10 years. First elected in 2001, his influence among his fellow trade unionists and within the Labour Party has grown from strength to strength. Prentis understands the power of his 1.3 million members, but more importantly when to use them carefully, unlike some other union bosses. He has also spoken out warning Labour not to form a coalition with the LibDems after the next election After donating £3.6million since the last election we’re sure Ed Miliband will be listening.
- (+14)Chris Bryant
Shadow Minister for Borders and Immigration
Bryant really came to the fore during the phone hacking scandal, and was widely attributed as one of the key players in bringing down the News of the World. In opposition he has blossomed despite failing to get elected to the Shadow Cabinet. In his current role as Shadow Borders Minister he laid a few blows to Theresa May this summer during the Heathrow queues debacle, blaming her for cuts made to the UK Border Force.
- (+33) Stella Creasey
Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention
Another of the talented 2010 intake to make the list, Creasey is young, energetic and is a star of the future in the PLP. Her media performances during the riots were impressive and we predict it won’t be long before she is in the Shadow Cabinet. This year she was appointed by Ed Miliband as a Shadow Home Office Minister, and has garnered much media attention for her campaign to tighten regulation on pay day loans.
- (NEW) Lord Adonis
Back in January Andrew Adonis left the Institute of Government to become Chair of the Blairite think tank Progress. He was later asked by Ed Miliband to co-ordinate Labour’s industrial strategy with Chuka Umunna and Jon Cruddas which he accepted. More recently he wrote a book on education reform entitled “Education, Education, Education” which was met with rave reviews. 2012 has certainly been Adonis’s comeback year.
- (NEW) Marc Steers
Fellow at IPPR
Marc Stears has known Ed Miliband longer than anybody on this list, except for the Labour leader’s brother David. They studied PPE together at Corpus Christi College, Oxford where Miliband, then called Ted, led a rent strike as JCR President. Stears, a political theorist, became an Oxford academic but has now joined the Westminster wonks at the IPPR, where he is trying to put some policy content into the ideas of ‘blue Labour’. The mild-mannered Stears has kept a much lower media profile than allies like Maurice Glasman, but he is among those most closely trusted by the Labour leader.
- (+46) Jonathan Freedland
Columnist, broadcaster & novelist
Freedland has established himself as a top notch writer and broadcaster. A favourite of Radio 4, his documentaries are incisive and original. He is a hugely popular novelist, writing under the nom de plume of Sam Bourne, but it is for his political commentary that he is included in this list. One of the columnists who is read right across the political spectrum.
- (-1) Kevin Maguire
Associate Editor (Politics), The Mirror
The Mirror remains the only mass market newspaper that supports Labour, and as the Associate Editor it is Maguire that decides their political line securing his influence. He is regularly on demand for both TV and radio, often adding his Northern charm the paper reviews during the late evening. He was formerly Chief Reporter on The Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.
- (-11) Alan Rusbridger
Editor, The Guardian
Rusbridger has now been Editor at The Guardian for more than 17 years, peaking last year as The Guardian as it positioned itself at the centre of the hacking scandal and the News International crisis. This year could never match that; coupled with reported £44 million loss at the Guardian Group this results in a fall down the rankings. However as the figurehead of the most widely read left wing broadsheet newspaper in the country, Rusbridger influence remains in the top half of this list.
- (+10) Mark Serwotka
General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union
If you close your eyes and listen to Mark Serwotka’s Welsh tones it is like be transported back to the industrial strife of the 1980s. He is vehemently anti-Tory, and has already joined with other unions this year to strike against cuts to public services. With many civil servants already having lost their jobs, no sector is more frightened of the impact of public expenditure cuts than the public sector.
- (+13) Caroline Flint
Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary
Caroline Flint was made Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary last October,. She admitted earlier this year that Chris Huhne was a big hitter and that she feels more at ease with Ed Davey at the opposing despatch box. She has worked hard at her media profile, abandoned her rather robotic pro-Blairite image, and ought to be a leading player in Labour’s revival in opposition.
- (+14) Mary Creagh
Shadow Secretary of State for Defra
One of the nice people in politics, Mary Creagh is the clever French-speaking networker who has scored one of Labour’s biggest hit so far in opposition when she humiliated Caroline Spelman and forced a spectacular U-turn on the selling of national forests. This undoubtedly led to Spelman’s sacking in this year’s reshuffle. She came out of the Islington Council Labour machine which has been producing top flight women Labour MPs for two decades. A solid media performer, she is currently touring the TV studios opposing the government’s badger cull.
- (+26) Dan Hodges
After blogging for The Guardian and New Statesman, Hodges recently became a columnist and blogger over at Telegraph.co.uk As a loyal Blairite Hodges was originally one of Ed Miliband’s biggest critics, but in recent months he has started to issue the odd bit of praise for the Labour leader. He is a one-man advocate of a muscular centre-left Labourism and hard-headed analysis of Labour issues. Hodges is widely read because in part you never know what he’s going to say next, but he’s always thought provoking. Although not universally adored, he is universally read and listened to.
- (+13) Paul Mason
Economics Editor, BBC Newsnight
Another great year for Mason who as usual benefits from more airtime when Britain is in recession. He’s been part of the Newsnight team since 2001 and is currently the Economics Editor; he also serves as the NUJ rep for the programme. He has done well out of the global economic downturn. Hardly an episode of Newsnight has gone by since the crash without an appearance by Mason. Aside from his very popular blog which has been nominated twice for the Orwell Prize, he has also released another book this year on the Arab Spring “Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere”.
- (+26) Torsten Henrickson-Bell
Head of Ed Miliband’s Office
Sometimes, the truly important political advisers are the ones you haven't heard of. This is certainly the case with Torsten, now Ed Miliband's Head of Office. Ferociously bright, sharp-witted and politically brave, he is crucial to Miliband's operation. Originally a high-flying Treasury civil servant, his work as a Private Secretary to then Chief Secretary Yvette Cooper brought his talents to the attention of Labour's leadership. Last year we wrote: “If Labour prospers over the coming year, it will be in no small part due to the organisational and intellectual rigour he brings to Miliband’s's office.” And it was.
- (NEW) Rosie Winterton
Labour Chief Whip
Winterton’s first job in politics was working in John Prescott’s constituency office in Hull after graduating from the local university. She then went on to become the MP for Doncaster in 1997, holding several ministerial jobs under Brown and Blair. Small but perfectly formed, she was a popular choice as the new Labour Chief Whip after Ed Miliband showed some uncharacteristic ruthlessness by sacking her predecessor Nick Brown. If she is to be judged on how many Labour rebellions there have been, she is clearly doing a very good job.
- (NEW) Maria Eagle
Shadow Transport Secretary
One of the two Eagle sisters, Maria Eagle was elected to the Shadow Cabinet back in October 2010 and was made Shadow Transport Secretary by Ed Miliband. She successfully dropped Labour’s policy on Heathrow expansion, and more controversially backed a report which called for returning some of the rail network back into public ownership. As the government puts more emphasis on infrastructure investment, Eagle will have one of the most important jobs in opposition.
- (+14) Nick Pearce
Since returning to the bosom of the IPPR following a period as head of Gordon Brown’s Number Ten Policy Unit, Pearce has overseen the revival of the IPPR as a think tank of influence in Labour circles. He has made some astute appointments, including that of Will Straw, which have seen the IPPR’s media profile rise considerably. During a time when the Labour Party is discovering new policy, the IPPR has a very important role to play.
- (+24) Keith Vaz
Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee
The most influential backbencher on law and order, he is an essential feature of smooth legislating in the areas he cares about and remains a key fixer. Despite the change of government he clung onto his place of chair of the home affairs select committee. He continues to fill the airwaves with his commentary, speaking out during many high profile incidents including the Heathrow airport queues and the G4S Olympics fiasco.
- (-11) Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Columnist, The Independent and Evening Standard
Alibhai-Brown has never been one to avoid controversy, this year calling for a Republic during the Diamond Jubilee. Regarded by some as the best radical voice in word and broadcast, she is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of anyone vaguely on the right. Alibhai-Brown is a popular guest on most current affairs programmes, although her appearances seem to be a little less frequent nowadays.
- (+2) Laurie Penny
Columnist, Blogger and Author
Laurie Penny is without doubt the loudest and most controversial female voice on the radical left, gaining notoriety when she joined student protestors in Millbank Tower, the home of CCHQ, and tweeted live from within the kettle. This year Penny left the New Statesman to join the Independent as a columnist and full time reporter. She picked a fight with David Starkey at this year’s Festival of Education, Starkey fought back saying he wouldn’t be “lectured to by a jumped up public school girl”. Ouch.
- (-9) Jason Cowley
Editor, New Statesman
Cowley has often been credited with having an eye for spotting journalistic talent; however the New Statesman lost two of its most vocal writers this year when Mehdi Hasan and Laurie Penny left for pastures new. He was awarded Editor of The Year in the current affairs category by the British Society of Magazine Editors, and continues to keep the ‘Staggers’ name in the headlines with high profile writers like Jemima Khan. It remains the go to left of centre magazine for politicos.
- (NEW) George Galloway
Respect MP for Bradford West
When Galloway got an astonishing 36% swing to win the Bradford West by-election he remarked it was "the most sensational victory in British political history", proving to many that his ego had not diminished since losing his Bethnal Green and Bow seat in 2010. It dealt a devastating blow to the Labour Party and made them buck up their electioneering machine. Galloway is up to his old tricks of making headlines, most recently by defending Julian Assange’s rape charges, leading his party leader, Salma Yaqoob to resign.
- (-22) Alastair Campbell
Former Government Director of Communications
Alastair Campbell falls again in this year’s list, but he remains a figure of influence. He’s one of the people Ed Miliband will always take a phone call from. He seems to have settled for a life pursuing his passions outside politics, but whenever he makes a political contribution, people sit up and listen. This year Campbell has made a documentary on alcoholism and wrote a book on depression, aiming to raise awareness and encouraging others to speak out about their mental health problems.
- (+10) Jackie Ashley
Increasingly popular among disaffected Lib Dems, Jackie Ashley is widely respected for her astute analysis of the political scene. Over the past year her column has sought to offer advice on how the Labour Party can recover its position. She does well to escape the large shadow cast by her Guardian colleague, Polly Toynbee.
- (NEW) Stephen Twigg
Shadow Education Secretary
For many Twigg is most famous as the young face who delivered the biggest single defeat against the Conservatives in 1997 when he beat Michael Portillo. Always one of the most talented members of the Labour Party, when he was re-elected in 2010 to the safe seat of Liverpool West Derby, he was soon chosen to shadow heavyweight Education Secretary Michael Gove. Twigg is not an ideologue and has been careful not to oppose Free Schools. For that alone, he should be commended.
- (-5) Peter Tatchell
Human Rights Campaigner
After the government announced that they were to have a consultation on gay marriage, Peter Tatchell was quick to rally people in favour of what he calls “equal marriage”. The results of his efforts on this campaign are yet to be seen, but he has certainly been effective in raising its awareness. A lifelong activist, Tatchell has worked for decades at highlighting human rights issues in the UK through direct action and a good eye for publicity.
- (NEW) Owen Smith
Shadow Welsh Secretary
One of the new voices emerging within the Labour Party, Owen Smith is one of the most talented of their media performers. Already in the Shadow Cabinet after being an MP for just over two years, he clearly has a great political career ahead of him. Many have touted Chuka Umunna or Stella Creasy as future Labour leaders. Perhaps the Labour party will one day return to a Smith as its Leader.
- (-1) Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish Deputy First Minister
Despite having a relatively quiet year, Sturgeon has the highest public profile of any SNP politician apart from Alex Salmond. Feisty in debate, she is tenacious in interviews and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. First elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, she remains the only realistic successor to Alex Salmond. Sturgeon will play an important role in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.
- (+6) Nick Lowles
Chief Executive, Searchlight
Lowles probably knows more than Nick Griffin about far right extremism in Britain. The success of his Hope not Hate anti-BNP campaign makes the former investigative journalist the most effective do-tanker on the left, combining Obama-style online engagement with traditional door-knocking in Barking. As in-fighting tears the BNP apart, Searchlight is increasingly focusing on preventive work in areas targeted by the English Defence League with its ‘Together’ campaign, whose sophisticated 'Fear and Hope' report assessing the drivers of extremism won praised from David Miliband and Jon Cruddas.
- (NEW) Arnie Graf
The American community organiser guru has been brought into the party to do root and branch reform of campaigns, organisations and structure. He is planning the largest voter registration drive ever seen in the UK and is putting in place a grass roots organisation that will replace the Community Action organisation created by his brother. Graf is not popular amongst party apparatchiks but he retains the ear of the leader and he success of Obama's operation, that Graf inspired, should make Labour’s opponents worry.
- (NEW) David Lammy
MP for Tottenham
David Lammy has recently experienced a comeback in the year following the London Riots of 2011. Representing one of the worst hit constituencies of Tottenham. Lammy released a book earlier this year titled Out of the Ashes which helped provide causes and consequences of the riots. Despite reportedly turning down an offer of a place in the Shadow Cabinet it can’t be long till he returns to frontline Labour politics. Aged just 40, many believe that Lammy will one day be the Labour candidate for Mayor of London.
- (-11) Jenni Russell
Columnist & Commentator
Jenni Russell’s voice is increasingly marginalized in an over-crowded field of leftish women journalists – Polly Toynbee, Mary Riddell, Caroline Bennett, Jackie Ashley – who have been writing comment pieces on Labour for 20 years or more. Her BBC producer background has given her a strong list of Labour addresses and she is to be seen at all the fashionable Labour salons in London.
- (+10) Lutfar Rahman
Mayor of Tower Hamlets
A very active community leader, Rahman became the first directly elected mayor of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, having been leader of the council for the previous two years. Despite being expelled by the Labour Party following his selection as mayoral candidate, he won as an independent with 51% of the vote. Viewed as successful Mayor who is making great changes in the area, many in the Labour Party have called for him to be readmitted back into the party. But he regarded with huge suspicion by the leadership.
- (+22) John Rentoul
Chief Political Commentator, Independent on Sunday
Rentoul gives lectures on contemporary history, is a former Independent leader writer, and has also written well-received biographies of Tony Blair. His blog has become a must read for political aficionados of every hue. If you want to know what Blair is thinking, chances are Rentoul is the man to tell you. His popular Questions To Which The Answer Is No series has recently been turned into a book.
- (-22) Deborah Mattinson
Managing Director, Britain Thinks
Another fall in this year’s list as Deborah Mattinson fails to make the impact she use to when she was Gordon Brown’s ex pollster. However, she remains a player in Labour politics, both as a pundit but also because of her new market research company, Britain Thinks. She has plenty of fresh ideas about how Labour can reconnect with their lost voters, but is Labour listening?
- (-58) Caroline Lucas
Former Leader of the Green Party
Caroline Lucas announced earlier this year that she was to stand down as leader of the Green Party, despite this she remains the only Member of Parliament in her party and here lies her influence. The Greens made small progress at this year’s local elections in England and Wales, not quite living up to the disaffected LibDem hype they were hoping for. She remains the party’s most familiar face on TV, and it looks like she will get re-elected as an MP now the boundary changes have been all but destroyed.
- (NEW) Dan Jarvis MBE
Shadow Minister for Culture
The charismatic and handsome former British Army Officer Dan Jarvis, won last year’s Barnsley Central by-election and has already been made a Shadow Minister. Despite his culture portfolio, he is most effective when speaking on military issues particularly when attacking cuts to the Armed Forces which has won him plaudits from all parties. It would be surprising if he wasn’t in the Shadow Cabinet by 2015. He has fought a powerful campaign against library closures.
- (-51) Liam Byrne
Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
Liam Byrne never had to resign from the Shadow Cabinet to run for Birmingham Mayor, because unluckily for him the people of Birmingham overwhelmingly rejected the idea. Yet Ed Miliband none the less sacked him from the Labour policy review post he held. Now Byrne has his mind back on Westminster politics he may be able to bring some of the independent and original thought he was known for. But till then he will languish in the lower half of these rankings.
- (-22) Ivan Lewis
Shadow International Development Secretary
Ivan Lewis was always going to struggle to match the year he had in 2011 when he emerged as one of the best media performers during the scandal over News International and the Murdoch family. Following the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle of October 2011 he was moved to the position of Shadow International Development Secretary. A very talented communicator.
- (+23) Sunny Hundal
Editor, Liberal Conspiracy
Hundal made his name with the Asians in the Media website and his blog, Pickled Politics. But he has established Liberal Conspiracy as an influential multi-authored website on the left and is a regular pundit on the media. Many predicted by many the left wing blogosphere has flourished in opposition, and accounts for Hundal’s rise up the rankings. Typical to his style he pledged his support to the Green candidate Jenny Jones in the London 2012 election, despite months of campaigning for Ken Livingstone.
- (-9) Robert Philpot
Philpot, a genial social democrat, is a bridge-builder among the factions within the Labour Party. The ‘Purple Book’, a Blairite blueprint for future policy, was published last year in a loyalist code despite Progress doubts about Ed Miliband’s strategic direction. With Blair back on the seen albeit as the Olympics Legacy Tsar and Andrew Adonis as Chair of Progress, they might find that they may be listened to a bit more than usual.
- (+19) Matt Cavanagh
Research Fellow, IPPR
Another large rise for think tanker Cavanagh on this list, proving the importance that the leadership is putting on the policy review. Ed Miliband has now successfully managed to get people to listen to what he is saying, but he needs people like Cavanagh to help him find something sensible to say about the more difficult subjects. His hard-headed and fair minded analysis of both the last government and the Coalition, on crime, home affairs and immigration have been praised by voices from both left and right, including Spectator editor Fraser Nelson.
- (+6) Suzanne Moore
Columnist, Mail on Sunday
Moore is a marmite columnist, even if you’re on the left. You either love her or hate her. She stood as an independent against Diane Abbott at the 2010 election but failed to trouble the counting agents too much. She is a prolific tweeter. Her columns in The Guardian and the Mail on Sunday never fail to be thought provoking, and sometimes even enraging.
- (-) Kate Green
Shadow Equalities Minister
No change for Kate Green in the rankings, it’s been a quiet year for her besides some supposed outrage at a drink called “Top Totty” in the Strangers Bar of Parliament which led to its removal. Coming from the campaigning world of the Child Poverty Action group, Kate Green brings a seriousness and experience to the job of MP. She has already proved effective as an opposition voice and was rewarded when she was made Shadow Equalities Minister late last year. She will be a key figure in the run up to the next election.
- (+8) Tristram Hunt
Labour MP for Stoke on Trent Central
As historian by background, Tristram Hunt still teaches a course on Marxism at Queen Mary, University of London. One of the brightest and most cerebral of Labour’s 2010 intake, he is also media friendly and tipped for great things. He writes a regular column for the Daily Mirror where he recently let slip his future ministerial ambitions.
- (-35) Sunder Katwala
Thinker and Pundit
Former Fabian General Secretary Sunder Katwala has moved away from Labour's internal debates as his new British Future think-tank has put a lot of effort is engaging across the party spectrum on identity and immigration. As these are the issues about which Labour has least to say, Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas have been keen to plug into these debates.
- (-32) Will Straw
Associate Director, IPPR
Will Straw is the son of former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and has been blessed with a large media profile dating back from the days when he ran the blog Left Foot Forward. However since he became a wonk at the left of centre think take IPPR his media profile has taken a hit. His profile has reduced further still as he looks around for a Parliamentary seat at the next election; he’s been spending a lot of time in the marginal northern seat of Rossendale and Darwen which neighbours his father’s Blackburn seat. This pleasant and talented young man will undoubtedly join the green benches in the future.
- (-20) Peter Hain
Former Secretary of State for Wales
Hain was put in the Shadow Cabinet by Ed Miliband despite not getting enough votes, yet earlier this year he decided to resign from the Labour front bench in favour of campaigning for a Severn Tidal Barrage. He lost further influence when he was replaced as chairman of Labour’s National Policy Forum by Angela Eagle. Hain’s autobiography published this year caused controversy when the Northern Ireland Attorney General attempted to sue him for “scandalising a judge”, an offence the Coalition is now committed to removing from the statute books.
- (-74) Lord Glasman
Member of the House Lords and Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University
This year has not been kind to Lord Glasman. His Blue Labour ideas now seem so 2010 and seem to have fallen upon deaf ears. Although still respected by some within the party, his reputation was destroyed among the leadership when he called for all immigration to be halted. Since then he has gone on to criticise Ed Miliband, accusing him of having "no strategy and little energy”, which only served to damage his reputation further.
- (NEW) Tim Soutphommasane
Author and Academic
Despite the Australian academic only meeting Ed Miliband once, the media touted Soutphommasane as his “new guru”. Despite this exaggeration Soutphommasane’s ideas have proved influential within the party, especially with Policy Chief Jon Cruddas, who invited him to Westminster to speak about his ideas on national identity. His latest book “The Virtuous Citizen” proposes a multi-ethnic patriotism as exemplified during the Olympics.
- (NEW) David Aaronovitch
Columnist, The Times
Acerbic and witty, Aaranovitch has a capacity to irritate and annoy left and right alike with his diatribes. Despite his far left past in student politics, he has moved way to the right and is seen as persona non grate by the left. Difficult to predict, he is a must read columnist for people across the political spectrum. His ability to offend is legendary and he enjoys the cut and thrust of Twitter.
- (NEW) Helen Lewis
Deputy Editor of the New Statesman
Young, bright and attractive, Helen Lewis has had a fast rise through the New Statesman ranks joining as a Staff Writer just two years ago she is already the Deputy Editor. Her writing is witty, clever but most importantly incisive, often demonstrating her skills in her varied interviews. Lewis has a long career ahead of her, and it’s sure to be a good one.
- (-8) John McDonnell
Member of Parliament for Hayes & Harlington
McDonnell rejoices in being a leading member of Labour’s left wing awkward squad. But he is not without influence. He is an accomplished single issue campaigner and popular in the trade union movement and has an eye for a good story. Comes across as the voice of sweet reason even when uttering utter left wing claptrap.
- (-) Gavin Kelly
Director, Resolution Foundation
If Ed Miliband didn’t initially to have pinned down who the ‘squeezed middle’ are, then Gavin Kelly can tell him. The Resolution Foundation’s detailed wonkery on exactly what is happening to living standards for families as wages stay flat and bills rise is being closely watched by the Coalition as well as by the opposition. Kelly managed to maintain his sanity despite working in Gordon Brown’s Downing Street operation, after spells with the Fabians and IPPR, and could well define the terms of debate over the key electoral battleground of family living standards.
- (NEW) Peter Kellner
President of YouGov
Kellner is President of YouGov, the only pollster to offer a daily tracking service, and married to Labour peer and the EU’s High Representative Baroness Ashton. Prior to this he was a political analyst on Newsnight, and a journalist for over 30 years with the Sunday Times, Independent and Evening Standard. Kellner continues to write occasionally for The Guardian, and is Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
- (-5) Chris McLaughlin
Despite Tribune’s relatively low circulation , it has always played an important part in Labour Party politics since it was established in 1937 by Nye Bevan. Backed by an enthusiastic proprietor, Chris McLaughlin has overseen its transformation back to being a paper. Previously he was the Political Editor of the Sunday Mirror, deputy Political Editor of the Mail on Sunday, and served as Labour councillor in Newham.
- (NEW) Natalie Bennett
Leader of the Green Party
This time last year nobody had ever heard Natalie Bennett, but now at least a few people in the Westminster Village have. She was elected earlier this month to replace Caroline Lucas as Leader of the Green Party, yet this former editor of Guardian Weekly has yet to build up the media or public profile her predecessor. The Australian raised leader has her work cut out to prove whether she can win over disaffected Lib Dems, after the Greens made little progress earlier this year.
- (NEW) Anas Sarwar
Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour
Sarwar is the young, charismatic MP for Glasgow Central who was elected as the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour at the end of last year. He often outshines his Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour, with his usually brilliant media performances. Vice Chair of Progress, he was also named “Best New Scottish Politician” by The Sun in 2009. At only 29, Sarwar is already being tipped for greatness.
- (NEW) Chris Leslie
Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Back in 1997 Leslie was first elected aged 24 to the constituency Shipley making him the “Baby of the House”, he was later defeated in 2005 by right wing Tory Phillip Davies. Between 2005-2010 he was Director of the Blairite think tank, the New Local Government Network, before being re-elected as MP for Nottingham East. He didn’t garner enough votes to get elected to the Shadow Cabinet, but was later made Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
- (-) James Macintyre
Political Editor, Prospect
Political Editor at Prospect Magazine, and a co-author of a revealing biography of Ed Miliband, James Macintyre has established himself as a thoughtful left of centre commentator. Friends with many Labour insiders, Macintyre produces good scoops that allow Prospect to punch above its weight.
- (-6) George Monbiot
Environmental journalist and campaigner
Hated by many on the right for his extreme stance on environmental issues, he has become a poster boy of the green radical left. However he did enraged his fellow environmentalists when he was converted to the benefits of nuclear power. His opposition to capitalism and his insistence that Tony Blair is put on trial for crimes against peace have won him a dedicated following. Never knowingly uncontroversial, his books remain both popular and influential.
- (-56) Lord Prescott
Former Deputy Prime Minister
This year Lord Prescott won Labour’s nomination to be its candidate for the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside. He’s now been out of power for five years, but still makes many classic media appearances with his bolshy, no nonsense style. Despite being in his mid-seventies he has built up an online presence with over 150,000 followers on Twitter, which he regular mobilises for campaigns. Like him or loath him, its undeniable that Labour have yet to find a replacement.
- (-39) Polly Billington
Former Chief of Staff to Ed Miliband, PPC for T
Former Radio 1 political correspondent and Today programme reporter, Billington successfully ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign before continuing as his communications advisor as Leader of the Opposition. Many critics blamed Billington for the disorganisation of the Miliband operation, especially his poor performances at PMQs. Billington has been selected as PPC to Thurrock and remains a close friend and confidante of Ed Miliband.
- (-55) Bob Crow
General Secretary, RMT
Crow proved again this year he always knows when to call for the most inappropriate strikes, this time during the 2012 London Olympics. Thankfully they were halted before they went ahead, but it that did little to stop the damage to his already poor reputation. Not only has challenged the government over and over again, but he also picks fights with Ed Miliband becoming the first union leader to openly criticise him. Caricatured as a champagne socialist, he has a salary of over £100,000 yet still chooses to live in a council house.
- (-75) Gordon Brown
Former Prime Minister
So far this year Gordon Brown has rung the Wall Street opening bell more times than he has spoken in Parliament, which goes to show his attitudes towards Westminster these days. Even Tony Blair has been brought back into the Labour fold as Olympic Legacy Tsar, while Brown remains in political exile. Despite UN Secretary-General Ba Ki-Moon appointing him as UN Special Envoy for Global Education earlier this year, Brown has yet to carve out a proper role for himself post Premiership.