Labour’s Parliamentary divisions may have left the party’s front bench full of holes, but in education it appears to have two people vying for the role of shadow secretary of state.
Lucy Powell officially resigned from the post at the end of June in protest at the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. But that did not stop her from turning up to speak at the Teach First Impact Conference in Birmingham last week.
Launching a stinging attack on government education policy in front of more than 4,000 teachers, it was almost as if nothing had changed. “I am not going anywhere,” she said, in a speech that made no mention of the appointment of current shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.
Ms Powell told TES that she thought her successor would be pleased she was helping her with her new job. “She has used a lot of what I have done already in supporting the role that she has been doing,” Ms Powell explained.“It is obviously a very difficult time for her and for anyone because there are so few people on the front bench that you are doing the job of several people at once. She has got no one else in her team. I am sure she would just be glad that there were other people out there batting as well. I would hope that she would see that as a sort of team effort.”
However, TES understands there has been no communication between the two MPs since Ms Rayner was appointed at the start of July. And Ms Rayner said this week she believed her predecessor had difficulty “letting go”.
Ms Powell is clear that she still has “an important message to deliver” on education. “I am not going to stop being passionate about the subject,” the MP for Manchester Central told TES, saying that the post of education secretary remained her “dream job”.
“It was very difficult resigning from a job that I care about so much and I felt I was making strides in doing,” she added. “I felt I had no other option really but to do that…but it doesn’t stop the need for us to continue to scrutinise the government and be effective in doing that, so that’s what I am trying to do.”
Ms Rayner said: “Lucy has a longstanding commitment to education and it’s entirely understandable that she should be having some difficulty in letting go since her resignation.” She added: “It has been more than five weeks now since her resignation and my job as the new shadow secretary is to focus on holding this government to account.”