In his latest despatch from Westminster, Croydon North MP STEVE REED outlines what it was like to be part of the parliamentary reshuffles
I was replying to constituents’ letters and emails in my office at Westminster when my phone rang. It was Ed Miliband’s political secretary to say she had Ed on the line.
The reshuffle had been widely anticipated for months. After a summer when the press had portrayed Labour as being on the back foot, Ed Miliband had regained the initiative with a barnstorming speech that has set the agenda since the political conference season with his call for a price freeze to curb excessive energy price hikes. He clearly wanted to maintain momentum with a new front bench team shaped to put Labour on people’s side on the big issues. including the rising cost of living, jobs, the health service and crime.
It was the first time I’d seen a parliamentary reshuffle at close quarters, and it was fascinating to be part of it.
The big jobs had been filled on the Monday with a new shadow cabinet in place. Westminster was echoing with gossip about who was up, who was down, and what that might mean for the parties’ policies. That left Tuesday to fill the more junior ministerial ranks.
In most jobs I’ve held outside politics, you get a new job by applying for it and making your case at interview. Political reshuffles don’t work like that. Going about Parliament I was aware that phone calls were being made and people were being promoted or demoted. It was happening in the same way on the government benches.
That was when I got the phone call. Ed asked me to join Yvette Cooper in Labour’s shadow Home Office team focusing on anti-social behaviour. He knew I had a successful track record in reducing crime from my time in local government. I thanked him and eagerly accepted. Crime is one of the big issues that concern our communities, and this was a great opportunity to help shape Labour’s crime prevention policy in the run-up to the general election.
The following Monday was my first time speaking from the despatch box in the House of Commons, a position reserved for frontbenchers. I led for the Opposition on a debate about ASBOs, which the government wants to weaken, and dangerous dogs, with the government refusing to introduce tough dog control orders that could reduce the risk of dog attacks by taking prompt action against irresponsible owners.
I appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics show to argue for stricter controls, and was delighted that my call for tougher action made the front page of the Evening Standard.
It happens as fast as that, but there’s no reduction in my important work in the constituency.
On Friday, I joined pupils, parents and teachers at St Joseph’s Primary School for assembly before a meeting at the Town Hall, then my regular public advice surgery later that afternoon in Thornton Heath. On Saturday I hosted a well-attended public meeting in West Thornton then headed up to Upper Norwood to speak to a group of community activists who wanted to raise their concerns about proposals to rebuild the Crystal Palace.
Then it was back home to get to grips with my new shadow portfolio. Juggling the many demands on your time is part of a politician’s life. I am determined to stay focused on my constituency in Croydon North while I do my best to make sure Labour’s on the side of the law-abiding majority in shaping our approach to preventing crime and keeping our communities safe.
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Coming to Croydon
- The Railway Children: Oct 30-Nov 2
- Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow: Nov 5-8
- Poppy Cafe, Coulsdon, re-opening: Nov 9
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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