Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom, carried out a reshuffle of his shadow cabinet on 9 May 2021. This followed disappointing results for the Labour Party, including historic defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and the loss of hundreds of councillors in local elections across England.

The major outcome of the reshuffle was the move of Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was seen as a reflection of her failure to effectively oppose Rishi Sunak.[1] Rachel Reeves was appointed as the new shadow chancellor and Angela Rayner succeeded Reeves as Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Nick Brown stood down as Chief Whip of the Labour Party and Starmer appointed his deputy Alan Campbell to succeed him. Valerie Vaz was sacked as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and was replaced by Thangam Debbonaire, who in turn was succeeded as Shadow Housing Secretary by Lucy Powell. Starmer also created four new Shadow Secretary of State positions, for the Future of Work, Mental Health, Child Poverty, and Young People and Democracy.[2][3][4]

On 8 May, the initial plans were leaked to journalists by an anonymous source saying that he was going to sack Rayner and other senior shadow ministers. This was heavily criticised by Labour members and MPs.[5] Following this backlash, the reshuffle was carried out on 9 May and less extensive than the leaked information said had been planned.[6][7]

On 10 May, Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, publicly described Starmer's treatment of Rayner as a "despicable act of cowardice".[8] Confidence in Starmer's leadership and authority was considered by some to have been undermined by the events of 8 to 9 May.[7][9][10]

Cabinet-level changes

Colour key
  •      Joined the Shadow Cabinet
  •      Left the Shadow Cabinet
  •      Portfolio created/renamed
Minister Position(s) before reshuffle Position(s) after reshuffle
Official portrait of Angela Rayner MP crop 2.jpg
Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP Shadow First Secretary of State
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party[note 1]
Chair of the Labour Party[note 1]
Labour Party National Campaign Coordinator[note 1]
Shadow First Secretary of State
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party[note 1]
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work
Official portrait of Rachel Reeves crop 2.jpg
Rachel Reeves MP Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Official portrait of Anneliese Dodds MP crop 2.jpg
Anneliese Dodds MP Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Chair of the Labour Party[note 1]
Official portrait of Shabana Mahmood MP crop 2.jpg
Shabana Mahmood MP Backbench MP Labour Party National Campaign Coordinator[note 1]
Official portrait of Rt Hon Nicholas Brown MP crop 2.jpg
Rt Hon Nick Brown MP Chief Whip of the Labour Party Left the Opposition frontbench
Official portrait of Rt Hon Sir Alan Campbell MP crop 2.jpg
Rt Hon Alan Campbell CBE MP Deputy Chief Whip of the Labour Party Chief Whip of the Labour Party
Official portrait of Rt Hon Valerie Vaz MP crop 2.jpg
Rt Hon Valerie Vaz MP Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Left the Opposition frontbench
Official portrait of Thangam Debbonaire MP crop 2.jpg
Thangam Debbonaire MP Shadow Secretary of State for Housing Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Official portrait of Lucy Powell MP crop 2.jpg
Lucy Powell MP Shadow Minister of State for Business and Consumers Shadow Secretary of State for Housing
Official portrait of Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP crop 2.jpg
Rosena Allin-Khan MP Shadow Minister for Mental Health[note 2] Shadow Secretary of State for Mental Health
Official portrait of Wes Streeting MP crop 2.jpg
Wes Streeting MP Shadow Minister for Schools Shadow Secretary of State for Child Poverty
Official portrait of Cat Smith MP crop 2.jpg
Cat Smith MP Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs[note 2] Shadow Secretary of State for Young People and Democracy

Junior changes

The following junior changes were made on 14 May:[11][12]

Reaction

Alleged sacking of Angela Rayner

Rayner at a deputy leadership hustings in 2020
Rayner at a deputy leadership hustings in 2020

The decision to replace Angela Rayner as Party Chair and Party National Campaign Coordinator was leaked by an unknown source as a sacking and that was received negatively by Labour MPs and members.[13][5] Reports of the change were leaked on 8 May, leading to accusations that Starmer was attempting to shift blame for Labour's election defeats onto his deputy. Former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, tweeted that he was "scapegoating everyone apart from himself" and demonstrating "a cowardly avoidance of responsibility".[14] Andy Burnham, who had been re-elected as Mayor of Greater Manchester two days prior, also tweeted his disproval by stating that "If it's so I can’t support this".[15][16] Burnham's statement, along with comments he had recently made that were critical of the party's "London-centric" focus, was perceived by some as a direct attack on Starmer's leadership.[17][18]

The announcement of the new shadow cabinet was delayed as they always are while the changes were discussed. Although she was ultimately replaced as Party Chair (by Anneliese Dodds) and National Campaign Co-ordinator (by Shabana Mahmood), Rayner's position on the frontbench was seen to have been strengthened, as she was appointed Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, shadowing prominent Conservative Michael Gove, and given the newly-created role of Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work.[2]

Dimissal of Nick Brown

One of the two shadow cabinet members to leave the Opposition frontbench was Nick Brown, who had served as Chief Whip of the Labour Party under five different leaders. A spokesperson for Brown stated that the decision had been amicable and that he and Starmer had parted "on good terms, with mutual respect".[19] However, this move was criticised as "inept in the extreme" by John McDonnell, who noted Brown's experience, calling him "one of the most experienced and tactically astute chief whips the party has ever had". McDonnell further alleged that the decision was orchestrated by Peter Mandelson, the influential former minister during the New Labour governments.[20]

Other rumoured changes

Nandy (left) and Starmer (right) during a leadership hustings in 2020
Nandy (left) and Starmer (right) during a leadership hustings in 2020

The day before the reshuffle, there were rumours leaked that Starmer was planning to demote and replace a number of senior members of his shadow cabinet, including Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary. This was heavily criticised both inside and outside the Labour Party, as Nandy is seen as one of the more visible and vocal members of the shadow cabinet representing the North of England.[21] It was suggested that she had been disloyal to Starmer and was being demoted as a result. However, Robert Peston of ITV tweeted that the accusations against Nandy appeared to represent "bunker mentality" and that signs of disloyalty had been "invisible" to him.[22]

There was also widespread speculation that Starmer was planning to promote several senior MPs who had previously served in New Labour cabinets and subsequent shadow cabinets. Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper were tipped to return, indicating an attempt to reintroduce experienced and well-known politicians to the frontbench.[23] Benn had been Shadow Foreign Secretary in Jeremy Corbyn's first shadow cabinet, until June 2016 when he was dismissed. Cooper had been Shadow Home Secretary in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet and stood down when Corbyn was elected leader in September 2015. Both had served in the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

When the new shadow cabinet was eventually announced on 9 May, Nandy remained in her post, alongside the majority of her colleagues. Neither Benn nor Cooper were appointed as they hold Chairs of Parliamentary Select Committees.[2]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Non-ministerial position
  2. ^ a b Attending Shadow Cabinet

References

  1. ^ Stephen Bush (10 May 2021). "Keir Starmer's first shadow cabinet reshuffle is a bigger gamble than many realise". New Statesman.
  2. ^ a b c Jessica Elgot; Heather Stewart (9 May 2021). "Labour reshuffle: Angela Rayner takes major role after Keir Starmer standoff". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Heather Stewart; Jessica Elgot; Peter Walker (9 May 2021). "Keir Starmer's Labour shadow cabinet reshuffle: the winners and losers". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Katie Proctor; Eleanor Langford (9 May 2021). "Keir Starmer Has Replaced Anneliese Dodds With Rachel Reeves As Shadow Chancellor In Emergency Reshuffle". PoliticsHome.
  5. ^ a b Ailbhe Rea (8 May 2021). ""Gobsmacked" Labour MPs react with anger to the leak that said Angela Rayner had been sacked as party chair". New Statesman.
  6. ^ Henry Zeffman (10 May 2021). "Keir Starmer invents a new title for Angela Rayner in reshuffle kerfuffle". The Times.
  7. ^ a b Laura Kuenssberg (9 May 2021). "Labour: Messy reshuffle knocks Sir Keir Starmer's authority". BBC News.
  8. ^ "Labour reshuffle: Anneliese Dodds out in Starmer's post-election reshuffle". BBC News. 10 May 2021.
  9. ^ Heather Stewart (9 May 2021). "Briefings, silence and sackings: Labour's confidence in Keir Starmer slips". The Guardian.
  10. ^ Peter Walker (10 May 2021). "Labour cannot return to past policies, says Gordon Brown after poll drubbing". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Keir Starmer appoints northern MP to build bridges with backbenchers". The Guardian. 14 May 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  12. ^ Rodgers, Sienna. "Reshuffle: Keir Starmer's new Labour frontbench in full". LabourList. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  13. ^ Heather Stewart (8 May 2021). "Angela Rayner sacked as Labour chair after Hartlepool byelection loss". The Guardian.
  14. ^ @johnmcdonnellMP (8 May 2021). ""Keir Starmer said yesterday that he took full responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool & other losses. Instead today he's scapegoating everyone apart from himself. This isn't leadership it's a cowardly avoidance of responsibility."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  15. ^ @AndyBurnhamGM (8 May 2021). ""I can't support this."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ Paul Britton (9 May 2021). "Andy Burnham says he 'can't support' the sacking of MP Angela Rayner as Labour Party chairman". Manchester Evening News.
  17. ^ Andrew Gregory (9 May 2021). "Victorious Andy Burnham takes aim at London". The Times.
  18. ^ Dan Bloom (9 May 2021). "Andy Burnham breaks ranks to slam Keir Starmer - and doesn't rule out future leader bid". Daily Mirror.
  19. ^ Tom Sheldrick (10 May 2021). "Tynemouth MP Sir Alan Campbell replaces Newcastle East's Nick Brown as Labour chief whip". ITV News Tyne Tees.
  20. ^ @johnmcdonnellMP (9 May 2021). ""Sacking Nick Brown, one of the most experienced and tactically astute chief whips the party has ever had, is inept in the extreme. This looks like Mandelson's revenge."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  21. ^ Andrew Woodcock; Ashley Cowburn (9 May 2021). "Angela Rayner sacked as Labour chair over disastrous election results". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022.
  22. ^ @Peston (8 May 2021). ""Bunker mentality seems to have arrived weirdly early in the @Keir_Starmer tenure. As I understand it @lisanandy and @JonAshworth are bracing themselves to be sacked for allegedly being disloyal to Labour's leader. If they have been disloyal they certainly never showed such..."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  23. ^ Rob Powell (9 May 2021). "Election results: Labour reshuffle - who could be on their way up and who could be on their way out?". Sky News.