Saturday, 12 Jun 2021

Promoted, demoted, sacked: Who’s who in Labour’s new top team

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has completed a reshuffle of his shadow cabinet, after what he described as ‘bitterly disappointing’ results for the party in the elections held on 6 May.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s in, who’s out, who’s been demoted and who’s staying put.

Sacked

Long-serving Labour frontbencher Nick Brown has lost his job as opposition chief whip.

The MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East since 1983 has served as chief whip for every Labour leader since Tony Blair. He has a reputation as one of Westminster’s most experienced and effective parliamentary fixers. But following the announcement of his sacking, his allies released a statement indicating he was not bitter about Sir Keir’s decision.

“Nick thinks it’s a reasonable time for Nick to move on. He and Keir have parted on good terms, with mutual respect. He wishes Keir and the new chief whip every success,” the source said.

Also sacked was Valerie Vaz, who has been shadow leader of the House of Commons since 2016.

The MP for Walsall South said in a statement: “It has been an honour to serve as shadow leader of the house for over four-and-a-half years. I wish Keir and my successor all the best for the future.”

Promoted

The biggest, though not the most surprising, promotion went to Rachel Reeves, who goes from shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to shadow chancellor.

Having spent the last year going head-to-head with Michael Gove she will now be tasked with trying to hold chancellor Rishi Sunak to account.

A notable feature of many recent PMQs sessions is Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to ensure Mr Sunak is implicated in government failings – a tactic widely interpreted as a reflection of the concern in Labour that Mr Sunak’s apparent popularity make him a future threat were he to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative leader in the coming years.

That Sir Keir has entrusted this task to Ms Reeves is telling. MP for Leeds West since 2010, the former Bank of England economist developed a close working bond with Sir Keir during the Brexit turmoil of Theresa May’s premiership. Labour sources say their views on the party’s future are very closely aligned.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner moves from the position of party chair and campaign coordinator to shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. She also takes on the roles of shadow first secretary of state and shadow secretary of state for the future of work.

Given the 24 hours of fury and backbiting within the party that was triggered by reports, confirmed by her own team, that she had been sacked, this move indicates that a deal has been done with Sir Keir Starmer that she is content with.

There will be a debate about whether this is a promotion or a sideways move, but in terms of public profile in the House of Commons it will see her back at the despatch box holding Michael Gove and the cabinet office to account.

Her last notable appearance in parliament was back in September when she stepped in for Sir Keir and took on Boris Johnson at PMQs. She opened that exchange by asking the prime minister if he knew the average hourly rate for a care worker in this country – Boris Johnson’s non-committal response was prime social media fodder for Labour. That kind of interaction could provide the cut-through Sir Keir is searching for, so long as the party’s internal divisions on show this weekend do not escalate.

Sir Alan Campbell, the MP for Tynemouth, has been promoted from deputy chief whip, a post he has held since 2010, to chief whip.

A junior home office minister under Gordon Brown, Sir Alan will have to use all the tricks up his sleeve to manage the simmering tensions in the parliamentary party and ensure Labour has an impact in the House of Commons, despite the huge majority Boris Johnson’s Conservatives enjoy.

Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, has been promoted to the position of Labour campaigns coordinator, taking on the role that was previously held by deputy leader Angela Rayner.

She will not have much time to settle into the role, with a crucial by-election in Batley and Spen likely in the coming months after the constituency’s current MP Tracy Brabin was elected the new metro mayor of West Yorkshire.

Thangam Debbonaire was the only other promotion in the reshuffle, moving from her position as shadow housing minister to shadow leader of the House of Commons.

The MP for Bristol West since 2015 had previously served in the opposition whips office between 2016 and 2020, so will have worked closely with new opposition chief whip Sir Alan Campbell.

Demoted

Anneliese Dodds fell from the highest political perch in this reshuffle, but has retained a role in the shadow cabinet.

She has only been an MP since 2017, when she was elected to represent Oxford East, but she was quickly adopted into former shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s treasury team during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and when Sir Keir Starmer took over last April she became the first female shadow chancellor.

A successful academic and former Labour MEP, she was also seen as a unifying figure – respected by all wings of the party. But even her political allies acknowledge she had failed to punch through and connect with the public as shadow chancellor, at a time when one of Labour’s top priorities is clipping the wings of Rishi Sunak and finding a political and economic message that competes with a Conservative Party that has embraced massive public spending. She will now take on Angela Rayner’s previous role as party chair.

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