Isabel Hardman

Is the reshuffle the answer to Labour’s woes?

Is the reshuffle the answer to Labour's woes?
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More than 24 hours after he started trying to reshuffle his shadow cabinet, Sir Keir Starmer has finally got what he wanted. He has moved his shadow chancellor, sacked Nick Brown as chief whip and moved Angela Rayner. Yesterday he told the party’s deputy leader that he didn’t want her to be party chair or campaign coordinator, and instead that she should move to shadow cabinet. After hours of negotiations, Rayner is now confirmed as – deep breath – Deputy Leader, Shadow First Secretary of State, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work.

As I reported earlier, Rayner had been pushing for some aides to be sacked from Starmer’s team. Her view was that they were responsible for some of the unpleasant briefing against her involving first class train tickets and claims she hadn’t been able to give a coherent run-down of the party’s campaign message when asked. Those aides have not been sacked. But the briefings between the camps have not stopped. Rayner’s side say she still has a senior role over that of the party chair and a policy role. But I understand that this is not the appointment that Starmer made.

Moving Rayner and Nick Brown is a bold move by Starmer and just because he has managed to make the personnel changes, doesn’t mean he hasn’t now got more enemies around him. But the new chief whip, Alan Campbell, is an experienced and measured figure who has earned the respect even of quite difficult MPs. He is also very much a New Labour type, which underlines that this reshuffle is less about keeping things quiet and relatively calm in the party and more about a clear direction.

Anneliese Dodds is the major demotion of this reshuffle, which isn’t a surprise as she had long been judged to be underperforming. But despite a couple of other moves – Thangam Debbonaire to shadow leader of the house, for instance – the shadow cabinet remains bigger than the cabinet and made up of a strange mix of political factions. As one experienced Labour modernising MP puts it: ‘It’s weaker than it was and so is he.’

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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