Liberal Democrat Leader, Vince Cable, announced a surprise reshuffle of the Westminster spokesperson team last week. The timing was unusual - it’s been months since Cable taking the lead; was a week into Westminster sitting, following a two-week recess; and close to a month on from the party’s Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Puzzling.
The gender balance of the new team is encouraging, with more women than men filling the new positions. Vince Cable highlighted this and said: “I am fortunate to lead such a great, gender-balanced team, which is comprised of the most talented and promising politicians in the House of Commons and battle-hardened, experienced campaigners. The team has a wealth of senior ministerial experience”.
Lords Shipley and Storey were singled out by Mr Cable, who suggested their considerable experience in local government (as the Council Leaders of Newcastle and Liverpool) reflected his “intention to restore and build” on the local government base.
As only 12 Lib Dems hold seats in the House of Commons the list is rather peer heavy.
Also worth noting is the absence of Norman Lamb. He is the party’s only MP not to have been assigned a portfolio but is likely to be kept busy by chairing the Science & Technology Committee and working on his campaign to foster cross party consensus on long term funding solutions for health and social care. It might also have something do with his decision to abstain on the Article 50 trigger vote, defying the party whip.
An introduction to the new key players:
Jo Swinson – Deputy Leader and Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs spokesperson
Deputy Leader and feminist champion, Jo Swinson’s position remains unchanged in this reshuffle as she retains the Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs spokesperson position. The East Dunbartonshire MP stood unopposed for the Deputy Leader role in June of this year and has been tipped as the next leader.
Christine Jardine – Scotland spokesperson
Former journalist, Christine Jardine, was elected by Edinburgh West this year. The newcomer has passionately campaigned on behalf of the WASPI women and is now set to replace Jamie Stone as spokesperson for Scotland.
Alistair Carmichael – Chief Whip and Northern Ireland spokesperson
Alistair Carmichael, Shadow First Secretary of State under Tim Farron’s leadership, will now be the Commons Chief Whip for the party as well as the spokesperson for Northern Ireland.
Jamie Stone – Armed Forces spokesperson
Jamie Stone, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, has shifted his focus from Scotland-wide matters to the defence portfolio.
Jane Bonham Carter – Culture, Media & Sport spokesperson
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, the great-granddaughter of former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, has been appointed to oversee all matters Culture, Media & Sport related. For four months back in 2015 she was the Lib Dems’ spokesperson in the Lords for Media & Creative Industries, a role with plenty of overlap.
Tom Brake – Exiting the EU & International Trade spokesperson
Carshalton & Wallington MP, Tom Brake, has been assigned the topical role of spokesperson for Exiting the EU & International Trade. He’ll likely have a lot to comment on and become a notable face of the party as the Liberal Democrats continue to pursue a second referendum on the final Brexit deal. He’s made a few scathing statements already… commenting on Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement that progress with negotiations must now “accelerate”, he said: “With just 18 months of Brexit talks left, this statement barely even registers on the Richter scale”.
Lorely Burt – Small Business spokesperson
Baroness Lorely Burt of Solihull was appointed to the House of Lords in 2015. Under Tim Farron’s leadership she held a range of spokesperson posts including Business, Innovation & Skills and Equalities. She is now taking on the position of Small Business spokesperson.
Menzies Campbell – Defence spokesperson
Lord Campbell of Pittenweem has stepped back into the political arena as the Defence spokesperson. Ming Campbell stepped down as an MP after the 2015 General Election and has since been given a life peerage and made a Companion of Honour. He hasn’t held a front bench position for over a decade.
Ed Davey – Home Affairs spokesperson
Kinston & Surbiton MP, Sir Ed Davey, will come up against Amber Rudd in his new post as Home Affairs spokesperson. As Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change under the coalition Government he championed renewable energy investment and he continues to hold a number of positions in energy consultancy bodies and sustainability trusts.
Tim Farron – Environment, Food & Rural Affairs spokesperson
Tim Farron assumes a far less prominent role than we’re used to as spokesperson for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Aside from the rural remit, his new focus will be “regenerating the north of England”, which is seemingly a good fit given he is the party’s only Northern MP.
Lynne Featherstone – Energy & Climate Change spokesperson
Baroness Featherstone, former MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, is the party’s spokesperson for matters relating to energy and climate change, a position she has held since July 2015.
Chris Fox – Business, Enterprise & Industrial Strategy spokesperson
Baron Fox of Leominster was appointed Business, Enterprise & Industrial Strategy spokesperson in June 2017 and the position has not changed hands during this reshuffle. He is a member of the Lords Science & Technology Committee and has been the Director of Communications at Engineering Group GKN since 2012.
Wera Hobhouse – Communities & Local Government spokesperson
Christine Humphreys – Wales spokesperson
Christine Humphreys takes over as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Wales. She was previously President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and sat in the Welsh Assembly from 1999 to 2001. She entered the House of Lords in 2013 and, unusually, took the oath in Welsh.
Meral Hussein Ece – Equalities spokesperson
Baroness Hussein-Ece of Highbury was appointed spokesperson for Equalities in 2015. She continues on in this role. The Baroness still actively campaigns on issues of ethnic minority women’s rights and spent much of her early career working in the third sector, supporting victims of domestic violence and forced marriage.
Judith Jolly – Health spokesperson
Baroness Judith Jolly has been confirmed as the spokesperson for health. She is experienced in this field having been appointed as the Lords Whip at the Department of Health in 2013 and because prior to her role in Parliament she was a Non-Executive Director and Chair for a number of NHS trusts, including the NHS Trust for Mental Health & Learning Disability, and a lay inspector for the Commission of Health Improvement.
Susan Kramer – Treasury spokesperson
Baroness Kramer, previously the party’s voice on all things economics under Tim Farron, is now to be the spokesperson on the Treasury. She has dedicated much of her work in the House of Lords to financial issues and is intent on developing a framework for community banks.
Stephen Lloyd – Work & Pensions spokesperson
Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne & Willingdon, will be the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on one of the most contentious policy issues of the current Government: welfare. He is well prepared to act as Work & Pensions spokesperson given his dedication to previous campaigns to secure concessions for PIP claimants and access to motability vehicles.
Jonathan Marks – Justice spokesperson
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames will be responsible for speaking out on Justice matters. Marks trained as a barrister and practiced criminal, personal injury and family law before sitting on the Queen’s Counsel. He brings considerable experience to the post, from his time as Chair of the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association, because he has run annual conferences on criminal, constitutional and human rights law and served on a range of legally focused committees and working groups in Westminster.
Layla Moran – Education spokesperson
Former physics teacher and International School headteacher, Layla Moran, will take up the role of Education spokesperson.
Jenny Randerson – Transport spokesperson
Liberal Peer, Jenny Randerson, will focus on transport issues. She has previously held spokesmanships on a range of issues including: Health, Social Services & Local Government, Equal Opportunities, Education & the Economy.
Shas Sheehan – International Development spokesperson
Baroness Sheehan will face Priti Patel as the Liberal Democrats new spokesperson for International Development. She has previously been a Councillor for Kew and campaigned to improve spending on mental health services in Merton, which receives the lowest per head spend on services in London.
John Shipley – Housing spokesperson
John Shipley, the Yorkshire born Lord, has inherited the housing spokesperson role in this reshuffle. He was a member of Newcastle City Council in 1975, and went on to hold roles as both Leader of the Opposition and Regional Director for the Open University before receiving his peerage in 2010. In 2015 he was the spokesperson for Communities, Decentralisation & the Northern Powerhouse.
Mike Storey – Young People spokesperson
Mike Storey captured the media’s attention after being appointed the spokesperson for young people at the age of 68. Mr Storey fought back saying: “I don't think we should be ageist… I was a head teacher of two schools for 20 years, so I know young people inside out… I don't think age matters, I think it's your experience and your ability to connect on certain issues”. A party blog reiterated this arguing the Liverpudlian Lord had “a long record of championing young people”.
Dee Doocey – Spokesperson without Portfolio
Former Chair of the London Assembly, Baroness Doocey, will serve as a spokesperson without portfolio.
Dick Newby – Leader in the House of Lords
Baron Newby was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords in September 2016, he will remain in this role. Of note in his career history is his position as Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard in 2012.
Ben Stoneham – Chief Whip (Lords)
Lord Stoneham of Droxford continues on as the Liberals’ Chief Whip in the House of Lords, a position he was appointed to in October 2016. Before receiving his peerage in 2011, he was Operations Director for the party under Charles Kennedy’s leadership.
Sal Brinton – President of Party
Sal Brinton, Baroness of Kenardington, was elected President of the Liberal Democrats in 2014. She will retain this position.
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