POLITICS
19/02/2020 12:32 GMT | Updated 20/02/2020 10:13 GMT

Who Could Be The Next Shadow Chancellor?

Here are the hopefuls who could end up on the Labour front bench opposite newly appointed chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, has arguably the most important job in British politics after the prime minister. 

With controls over tax, spending and economic policy, the 39-year-old will deliver his first budget on March 11 after Sajid Javid’s shock resignation during Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. 

Downing Street has said Sunak’s appointment signals a closely aligned top team and insists Johnson’s premiership will end the ten years of austerity of his Tory predecessors.  

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Rishi Sunak has been promoted to the role of chancellor, but who is he likely to be facing across the despatch box when Labour elects a new leader?

But, with Labour’s leadership contest due to rumble on until April 4, it is not yet clear who Sunak will be facing across the despatch box in years to come when the opposition team is refreshed. 

Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey have been tight-lipped about who they would pick as their shadow chancellor, not least because they could be tempted to choose a current rival, but here are some of the options. 

Rachel Reeves

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Rachel Reeves is chairwoman of the Commons' business, energy and industrial strategy committee

The MP for Leeds West is seen as among the favourites to take the job - and it’s easy to understand why. 

Before entering parliament in 2010, the 41-year-old was an economist at both the Bank of England and the British Embassy in Washington, having graduated with an MSc in economics from the London School of Economics. 

Under Ed Miliband, Reeves was promoted to work in Ed Balls’s team as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury and was later crowned shadow work and pensions secretary. 

After Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, Reeves has served as chairwoman of the Commons’ business, energy and industrial strategy, using the role to make smart interventions on outsourcing and breaking up the dominance of the “big four” accountancy firms in the wake of the Carillion scandal. 

Her appointment would mark a clear break with “Corbynomics”, with Reeves hitting out at unfunded promises and already having called the 2019 manifesto “economically illiterate”. It would be a mistake to label her right-wing, however, with the MP backing a financial transaction tax and having heavily criticised austerity. 

While many in Labour will balk at some of Reeves’s past comments about welfare and austerity - “we don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work”, for example - the MP represents one of the so-called ‘red wall’ constituencies, is highly qualified and, as one Labour source told HuffPost UK “commands respect across parliament”, so is well placed to help the party recover its economic credibility with voters.  

Yvette Cooper

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Labour MP Yvette Cooper has chaired the home affairs select committee 

An early supporter of shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s campaign, speculation has been swirling the Yorkshire MP is in line for a return to the Labour frontbench

Highly respected throughout parliament, Cooper was elected in 1997 and has served in a series of positions under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, including housing minister, chief secretary to the Treasury and work and pensions secretary. 

In opposition, she also spent four years as shadow home secretary, holding one Theresa May’s feet to the fire. 

After losing to Corbyn in the 2015 leadership race, she resigned and it was highly anticipated Cooper may again mount a challenge for the top job. 

Instead, she has been a fierce chair of the Commons’ home affairs select committee, taking ministers to task over the Windrush scandal, detention centres, modern slavery and policing. 

She also led cross-party efforts to swerve a no-deal Brexit and is considered a safe pair of hands. 

Like Reeves, she is one of the few MPs to hold an MSc in economics and many consider her languishing on the backbenches a waste of talent. 

Jonathan Ashworth 

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Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth could be a contender to take on Rishi Sunak 

The shadow health secretary is regarded as having a strong record against the Conservatives, opposing both Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock in the Commons. 

He began his career in Scottish politics, formulating the party’s Holyrood campaign alongside the then chancellor Gordon Brown. He later worked as a special adviser in the Treasury and, after Labour lost in 2010, political secretary to acting leader Harriet Harman. 

Despite being a moderate, Ashworth was promoted twice by Corbyn and is seen by MP colleagues as able to think on his feet and having done a solid job with the NHS brief. 

Able to withstand a tough media interview, the 41-year-old has also opened up about having an alcoholic father and his drive to create sustainable addiction services

Thought to have a deep understanding of Labour’s trade union politics (he has served on the party’s ruling NEC) and a strong work ethic, he would also prove a powerful ally should members revolt over the leader’s change in direction.

One Labour source said: “Jon is interesting because he is a really good media performer, he gets the Treasury and he is popular across the PLP.” 

Whether Ashworth would be picked when a string of competent females are vying for the role is another question. 

Anneliese Dodds

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Anneliese Dodds is a shadow Treasury minister 

Loyal and well-liked, Oxford East MP Annaliese Dodds was promoted to shadow Treasury minister by Corbyn in 2017. 

She has previously served as an MEP and her experience sitting on the European Parliament’s economy committee could prove helpful as UK-EU trade talks gather pace this year. 

Born in Aberdeen, and later graduating with a PhD in government from the London School of Economics, Dodds would also have ideas about how to regain seats in Scotland. 

The 41-year-old is also seen as a competent media performer, with regular stints on Question Time under her belt. 

Her lack of experience may work against her.

Clive Lewis  

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Clive Lewis

Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis may fancy his chances of promotion after a short-lived tilt at the top job before Christmas ended in failure. 

An ardent Remainer, Lewis grew up on a council estate to a single dad and has served as shadow business secretary and shadow defence secretary. 

The Norwich South MP resigned to rebel against voting for Article 50 in the wake of the Brexit vote. 

He is a strong champion of freedom of movement and backs a referendum on the Monarchy. All leadership candidates will have concerns he therefore may not be best placed to regain the support of red wall voters. 

Lewis was cleared of a sex harassment allegation in 2017. He also had to apologise for allegedly telling (male) actor Sam Swann to “get on your knees, bitch”.

Divisions on the left also make it difficult for Long-Bailey to promote Lewis but he nonetheless has supporters among the left-wing ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ group. 

Shabana Mahmood 

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Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood Shabana Mahmood served as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury when Ed Miliband was in power 

The Birmingham Ladywood MP and qualified barrister was one of the UK’s first Muslim MPs and has a good breadth of parliamentary experience to back up a claim for promotion. 

Since her election in 2010, she served under Ed Miliband as shadow home affairs minister, shadow universities minister and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, stepping down when Corbyn won the leadership. 

Not a Corbynista, she supported Owen Smith’s leadership campaign.

She has stayed neutral in the leadership race as she is leading a review into the disastrous 2019 election result. 

Some may be concerned about her defence of parents protesting over relationships and sex education in schools in her constituency, though the MP has since said her comments were misinterpreted and has condemned some banners used by parents as homophobic. 

Jon Trickett 

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Jon Trickett, shadow cabinet office minister, is chairman of Rebecca Long-Bailey's leadership campaign

A Brexiteer with roots in the north, Rebecca Long-Bailey may choose to promote the chair of her leadership campaign to signal to red wall seats she is listening. 

The Hemsworth MP has served in a broad range of frontbench roles for figures across all factions of the party and could be a surprise contender for the shadow chancellor job. 

He was parliamentary private secretary to both Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown when the chancellor became PM, despite playing a significant role in rebellions on the Iraq war and Tony Blair’s public service reforms. 

Promoted as shadow minister by Miliband, Trickett was later made shadow local government secretary, shadow business secretary and shadow cabinet office minister by Corbyn and he worked closely with the outgoing leader in the final days of his premiership. 

Though not universally popular among MPs, Corbyn-loyal Labour members would regard Trickett’s promotion as a victory. 

Outside bets 

There is a chance ex-leader turned climate change campaigner Ed Miliband could make a return to frontbench politics, and perhaps even as shadow chancellor, though his name is also associated with the role of party chairman. 

John McDonnell has said he would decline a frontbench job and has said he would prefer an “international role” in future, but it is not completely impossible he would make a return to frontline politics should his protege Long-Bailey clinch victory. 

Former special adviser to Harriet Harman, Seema Malhotra, who also briefly served as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury under Corbyn, could be considered for a promotion and has notably appeared on the media to support Starmer. 

Chair of the Blairite organisation Progress, Alison McGovern, could be considered for a top job. The MP served briefly as shadow City minister and became Brown’s PPS when first elected. She is currently a member of the Commons’ Treasury committee. 

Jonathan Reynolds may be considered for the job by Nandy. He was promoted to economic chief secretary in 2016 having served as Corbyn’s aide. 

Thought to be rated by all three leadership candidates, Reynolds’s experience as shadow City minister could prove useful as the UK enters trade talks with the EU.