Angela Rayner will get all the headlines from today’s reshuffle of the Labour shadow cabinet, but Monday’s moves were really about projecting that Labour is the government in waiting and that Keir Starmer is ready to enter No.10.
When Starmer appointed his first shadow cabinet three years ago, Labour was at an historic low following the devastating 2019 general election and with the new leader in a weak position, he had to balance multiple party factions that were jostling for prominence in his new team.
Three years later and a combination of a poorly performing economy, a cost-of-living crisis, multiple Tory political disasters and sky-high Labour polling means that Starmer has never been in a stronger political position and no longer has to be too worried about pleasing all Labour factions.
This political strength – and the perceived likelihood of Labour entering government next year – means that Starmer can now form the shadow cabinet that he really wants, that reflects his vision and that can hit the ground running if Labour wins the next general election.
The theme of this reshuffle is the return of serious, experienced politicians and their appointment to positions of considerable influence in government. The cabinet office is hugely important in government; vital for taking forward political objectives and actually getting things done. It therefore makes sense to see experienced political operators like Pat McFadden and Jon Ashworth – all of whom have huge government experience under the last Labour administration – become shadow cabinet office ministers. Combined with Sue Gray starting as Starmer’s new Chief of Staff, this is a team designed to make things happen.
Reshuffles usually create as many problems as they solve as any leader must inevitably disappoint some colleagues in order to reward others. One only has to look at the Conservative party over the past 12 months to see the damage that can be done by disgruntled former ministers from the backbenches. But this is unlikely to happen to Starmer, such is his strength. He is in pole position to become PM next year and there is no prospect of a serious leadership challenge. That leaves Labour MPs with any ambition of entering government to ‘like it or lump it’– hence Lisa Nandy accepting a demotion and Rosena Allin-Khan leaving the frontbench altogether.
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