New faces in Labour reshuffle threaten to shame Theresa May and her Tories

Jeremy Corbyn with Chris Williamson during an election campaign event in Derby in 2017. Williamson decided to resign after he told the Huffington Post council tax should be doubled on higher-value homes, an idea that is not in line with Labour policy [Image: Hannah Mckay/Reuters].

An influx of bright new faces from Labour’s 2017 Parliamentary intake has boosted the party’s shadow cabinet, alongside ‘unity’ appointments and the welcome return of Clive Lewis, in a minor reshuffle that promises to put Theresa May’s disastrous attempt to revitalise her failing Tory government in the shade.

Here are the new appointments (as announced by Skwawkbox):

Shadow Minister for Pensions – Jack Dromey MP

Shadow Minister for Labour – Laura Pidcock MP

Shadow Minister for Planning – Roberta Blackman-Woods MP

Shadow Minister for Social Care and Mental Health – Paula Sherriff MP

Shadow Minister for Buses – Matt Rodda MP

Shadow Minister for the Treasury – Clive Lewis MP

Shadow Minister for the Treasury – Lyn Brown MP

Shadow Minister for Fire – Karen Lee MP

Shadow Minister for International Trade – Judith Cummins MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – Chris Matheson MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – Laura Smith MP

Shadow Minister for International Development – Dan Carden MP

Shadow Minister for International Development – Preet Gill MP

The changes come after Derby North MP Chris Williamson resigned as shadow fire minister.

The Guardian explains:

Williamson, who is an ardent supporter of the Labour leader, told the Huffington Post that council tax should be doubled on higher-value homes.

The interview, the latest in a series of controversial pronouncements by Williamson, strayed outside his brief and did not reflect party policy.

But it was immediately seized on by the Conservatives, who used an image of Williamson, with the slogan, “I want to double your council tax”, in an online attack ad.

Labour sources said the shadow communities and local government secretary, Andrew Gwynne, was furious. He had not been warned of the article.

In a statement, Gwynne said: “This proposal is not our policy and it won’t be. Unlike this proposal, we recognise that each council area has a different ability to raise income locally and so we will look at that as part of a fair redistribution mechanism, linking social need, health inequality, urban deprivation and rural sparsity.”

It is understood that when the issue was raised with Williamson, rather than agree to confine his public statements to his own policy area, he decided to resign. He is expected to act as a leftwing outrider for the Labour leader from the backbenches.

Bear in mind that the Tory propaganda release twisted Mr Williamson’s words. The plan was never to double everybody’s council tax, as was implied by the Conservative claim.

This was made abundantly clear in the Huffington Post article explaining his idea [boldings mine]:

Shadow minister Chris Williamson said that his radical plan to hike the tax on wealthier properties, while freezing it for less expensive homes, was one answer to “relentless” austerity suffered by local councils.

In an interview with HuffPost UK, Williamson said that his ‘Differential Progressive Council Tax’ proposal would require popular support in local referendums, but said the argument was winnable as it was about local budgets “for the many, not the few”.

The shadow fire minister, who also floated the idea of a “local purchase tax” to help councils raise their own funds, stressed his proposal was not official party policy and would be up to local parties to adopt.

The plan would involve freezing council tax for properties rated in Bands A to C, homes which were valued – in the last rate valuation in 1991 – as worth less than £68,000.

Homes in Band D, worth between £68,000 and £88,000 and considered the ‘average’ by Whitehall, would pay 20% more.

More expensive homes would see progressively higher rates, right up to a 100% increase for the highest band H, which covers properties worth more than £320,000.

The article also made it clear that councils are not satisfied with the Conservative government’s plans for local government:

“Councils across the country are this month setting their tax rates and budgets for the coming year, with many including Tory boroughs set to use new freedoms to increase bills by up to 5.99% to meet social care costs.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is set to confirm plans which councils say offer inadequate funding, with many warning council tax bills will have to go up by up to £200 a year, the highest rise in 14 years.”

So, having rushed to ridicule a left-wing plan that would have humiliated them, the Tories have – yet again – shot themselves in the foot.

The resulting resignation provided Labour with an opportunity to mock the reshuffle carried out by Theresa May at the beginning of the week.

Instead of bringing in a rabble of old faces with tarnished records, Mr Corbyn took the opportunity to bring bright, new faces into his shadow government – and to bring back Clive Lewis, a popular MP who had been falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour, and subsequently exonerated, again in sharp contrast to Tories who appeared to have been promoted into Cabinet positions based on the harm they have done in the past.

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