Katy Balls Katy Balls

Keir Starmer’s awkward shadow cabinet meeting

(Getty images)

It’s been a bruising few days for Keir Starmer. Disappointing results for the party in the north of England in the local elections have been made worse by his botched attempt over the weekend to reshuffle the shadow cabinet. 

The Labour leader’s hopes for a swift refresh of his frontbench team hit a block in the road when his decision to sack his deputy Angela Rayner as party chairman led to a backlash from his MPs. After much negotiation, Starmer eventually managed to complete his reshuffle late on Sunday night. 

During the meeting there was – according to one attendee – ‘plenty of grandstanding’

Today Starmer attempted to draw a line over recent events. The Labour leader met with his recently refreshed team in parliament to try to reset the news agenda and set out Labour’s priorities going forward. However, with the event of the reshuffle fresh in the mind of his MPs, it ought not come as a huge surprise that attendees describe the two-hour long meeting as a rather awkward affair. Those present included the recent demoted Anneliese Dodds – who has moved from shadow chancellor to party chairman – along with Starmer’s deputy Angela Rayner, who he sacked on Saturday afternoon before bringing her back in following a backlash from MPs.

Starmer began by insisting that – despite attempting to sack his deputy – he took full responsibility for the election result. He said the party could not escape the seriousness of the Hartlepool result but pointed to the success of Welsh Labour under Mark Drakeford as a result the party could take heart from. Starmer also congratulated the various Labour metro mayors who had found success and praised the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar for running a ‘focussed’ campaign.

Rayner took the opportunity to address her colleagues about what they could learn from the result – suggesting that a large part of the Tories’ success was down to a vaccine bounce and that would not last for ever.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in