The patronage of power and the corruption of the gravy train

Miliband Junior, the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, wants to end elections to the Shadow Cabinet by the Parliamentary Party. Opinions vary as to why. Some suggest he wants to get rid of disloyal Blairites, others that he wants to show he is a “strong” leader, imposing his will on the Party. “Labour sources” told the Independent that the move was not about Mr Miliband “trying to assert more control over his party” but about ending the “distracting cycle of Shadow Cabinet elections”. A senior Labour source said: “We don’t need the distraction of internal elections whilst we have a job to do of holding the Government to account and preparing ourselves for the next election.”

Whatever his motivation the move sends a message about the ‘refounding’ of Labour that Miliband wants. Whilst apparently he wants to open up the gates of the Party to ‘supporters’ he moves to centralise power in his own hands.


Of course, it’s true that Labour has long accepted the rules of the Parliamentary game and all the medieval monarchist trappings. Prime Minsterial Patronage concentrates power in the hands of a party leader when his party is elected. It is a deeply corrupting influence based on the rewrds of the gravy train. If you have career aspirations you have to be careful not to fall out of favour with The Leader. Along with the extra money for minsterial jobs goes the ministerial car and all the rest. And then, as we saw from the last government, all these ‘aspirational’ ex-Ministers can be rewarded with ‘jobs’, many with the private sector companies that New labour had opened up the public sector to. The latest one to come to public notice is on the Board of that reputable company Southern Cross.


John McDonnell was quite right to oppose this extension of patronage on Radio 4 today, but he’s also right that Miliband will probably get his way. As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. It’s a familiar scenario. The leader has spoken. The leader has to be supported because if he isn’t then the media will talk of a split….ad nauseam.


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