New UK opposition chief finalizes team, hands key posts to high flying husband and wife duo

Friday, October 8, 2010

New UK opposition Labour chief appoints new team

LONDON — Britain’s new opposition leader Ed Miliband defused another potential family feud on Friday, handing a high-flying husband and wife duo key jobs in his new team — two weeks after defeating his own brother to be named Labour Party chief.

Miliband, ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s successor as Labour leader, named his so-called shadow Cabinet, allocating portfolios to the legislators who will spar with coalition government ministers at the House of Commons.

The 40-year-old narrowly defeated his better-known brother David in a leadership election, winning a small majority of votes in a ballot of legislators, party activists and about 3.5 million labor union members.

Ed Balls, who came in third in the leadership contest, and his wife Yvette Cooper had both been tipped to take the economic post, but Miliband moved to avoid any dispute between the couple, appointing 60-year-old ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson as shadow Treasury chief.

The job is one of the most important positions in Miliband’s team, as the coalition government will outline plans on Oct. 20 for sweeping spending cuts to clear Britain’s 109 billion pounds (US$174 billion) structural deficit.

Balls and Cooper were handed the home and foreign secretary portfolios respectively. Cooper, a former Harvard student and a legislator since 1997, previously worked as an aide on President Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign.

In a debut speech as leader, Miliband had promised to champion “a new generation” of Labour lawmakers but there were few fresh faces among his 27-strong team, and many were members of Brown’s ousted government.

Labour Party legislators elected 19 fellow lawmakers to serve with Miliband, and selected a new chief whip. Miliband’s brother David ruled himself out of the contest, saying his presence on the front line would fuel speculation about divisions between himself and his brother.

Former Cabinet ministers Jack Straw and Alistair Darling also stood down, saying it was time for new blood.

“My team is united in one central mission for the future — to win back the trust of the British people and take Labour back to power,” Ed Miliband said in a statement.

Ex-Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy will handle the defense brief, while former Europe minister Caroline Flint — who quit her post with Brown’s government and accused him of using women only as “window dressing” — was named shadow communities and local government secretary.

Relative unknown Mary Creagh, a 42-year-old lawmaker, was given the brief handing environment and rural affairs issues.

will not be displayed