Starmer allies defend Labour reshuffle that blindsided Rayner

Figures on left of party criticise tilt ‘to right’ but Nandy dismisses characterisation

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner hold their first shadow cabinet meeting after a reshuffle. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner hold their first shadow cabinet meeting after a reshuffle. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

Keir Starmer’s allies have defended a reshuffle of the Labour front bench that blindsided his deputy, Angela Rayner, and angered figures on the left of the party.

In a series of major changes, Mr Starmer promoted a number of figures from the right, making Yvette Cooper shadow home secretary, Wes Streeting shadow health secretary and Jonathan Reynolds shadow business secretary.

But Lisa Nandy, who was moved from shadow foreign secretary to face Michael Gove on the government’s “levelling up” agenda, said it was wrong to characterise the reshuffle as a move to the right.

“We’re moving north; left or right, you can keep that debate. We’re going out into the country and we’re going to start delivering for people in towns, villages and cities that have been completely and utterly abandoned by the political system,” she told Sky News.

“You go to Grimsby, you go to Barnsley, you go to Aberdeen, you will find proud communities that have a contribution to make. But so often they are held back, not by the skills of their young people, not by the abilities in those communities, not by their own ambition, but by a national government that isn’t investing in the infrastructure that would bring good jobs.”

The gaffer

Mr Starmer did not consult Ms Rayner before making the changes, telling her about the reshuffle as she was about to make a major speech about improving standards in public office. Ms Nandy said she had not spoken to the deputy leader since the announcements were made, dismissing as a “circus” reports that Ms Rayner was unhappy with how the reshuffle was conducted.

“I have been through a lot of reshuffles over the past 11 years – I think that the leader makes the decisions, the gaffer picks the team – that’s how it goes and that’s how it has always gone,” she told the BBC.

“Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the circus of who’s in and who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, who knew, who didn’t.”

Mr Starmer was elected leader on a platform of 10 pledges that promised to keep most of the policies Jeremy Corbyn campaigned on in 2017 and 2019. But veteran left-wing MP Diane Abbott said the reshuffle was a vote-winning exercise that could backfire as the leader moved further away from the platform he put to the party membership to win the leadership.

“I just think this is a slow, inexorable move to the right,” she said.

“Will this win us votes in Scotland? I don’t think this will necessarily win us all the votes we need to win, especially in Scotland.”

The reshuffle saw Louise Haigh promoted from shadow Northern Ireland secretary to shadow transport secretary, with Hove MP Peter Kyle replacing her. David Lammy, who served as a junior minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, becomes shadow foreign secretary, while former Labour leader Ed Miliband moves from business to a new climate change and net zero portfolio.