UK opposition leader Keir Starmer re-jigged his top team as he puts in place the shadow ministers that are likely to lead Labour’s campaign at a general election expected next year.
(Bloomberg) — UK opposition leader Keir Starmer re-jigged his top team as he puts in place the shadow ministers that are likely to lead Labour’s campaign at a general election expected next year.
Starmer named Angela Rayner shadow deputy prime minister and handed her the brief for leveling up, housing and communities, a vote of confidence in his deputy leader, with whom he has at times had a fractious relationship. She replaces Lisa Nandy — one of Starmer’s vanquished opponents in the 2020 leadership contest, who is demoted to shadow international development minister, while still a member of the shadow cabinet.
It’s a big moment for Starmer, whose party enjoys a double-digit poll lead over Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party ahead of a national vote that has to happen by Jan. 2025 at the latest. That means Starmer’s picks for his top team could reflect the make-up of the next British government.
Starmer and his team view this fall as a pivotal time for Labour’s chances, with the party’s annual conference in October seen as a key moment of public engagement with wall-to-wall media coverage of the party’s aims and policies. Unlike in normal years, it comes after the Conservative Party Conference, giving the opposition the chance to seize the news agenda.
Starmer “will have thought long and hard” about the changes, Thangam Debbonaire, a member of the current shadow cabinet, told Times Radio on Monday. “He will put together a team that will help fulfill the five missions he’s laid out,” she said, referring to goals focused on the economy, energy, NHS, education, and the justice system.
Jim McMahon, who served as the party’s environment spokesman stepped down. In a letter thanking him, Starmer said threats of violence and health issues had led to his departure. UK media have reported that shadow cabinet members with posts relating to Starmer’s core missions are likely to remain unchanged, meaning Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and the holders of the health and education posts, Wes Streeting and Bridget Phillipson may be safe in their jobs.
The Labour changes coincide with Sue Gray’s first day in post as Starmer’s chief of staff. Gray, who led the investigation into rule-breaking parties in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall during the coronavirus pandemic, had to serve a six-month cooling-off period before being able to take on the role.
Starmer’s reshuffle follows Sunak’s own minor reorganization of his cabinet last week, in which he installed Grant Shapps as the new defense secretary to replace Ben Wallace, and promoted Claire Coutinho to fill Shapps’s old role of energy secretary. The moves were widely seen as Sunak handing roles to loyalists as he too looks ahead to the next election.
The third largest grouping in Parliament, the Scottish National Party, also said in a statement on Monday it was making changes to its spokespeople in the House of Commons, with Drew Hendry promoted to economy spokesman.
–With assistance from Alex Wickham.
(Updates with more details starting in first paragraph.)
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