Keir Starmer ‘overshadowed’ Angela Rayner says Adam Boulton
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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner, have a long history of fraught working relations, with a recent spat making headlines in May this year. And on Monday, as Ms Rayner delivered a major speech on standards in public life, news of a Cabinet reshuffle began to leak, making it clear she had not been consulted.
Ms Rayner told reporters at the event: “I don’t know the details of any reshuffle.
“I’ve been concentrating on the job that I’m doing.”
When asked whether it was the right time for a shakeup, she said: “We need some consistency in how we’re approaching things as an opposition.”
She said Labour should be “focused on getting us into power” and if the party was diverting its attention away from that, it was letting people down.
Ms Rayner’s stern words echo sentiments from earlier this year, when a reshuffle saw Sir Keir attempting to move Ms Rayner to a different post, one she furiously refused.
Political experts have speculated this latest snub is another attempt on the Labour leader’s part to undermine his deputy – and that, if he could, he’d have sacked her by now.
Dan Hodges, a political commentator with the Mail on Sunday, tweeted: “Keir Starmer is doing a reshuffle precisely when Angela Rayner is giving a major speech because he doesn’t rate her and wants to sack her.
“Angela’s ‘friends’ are briefing against Keir because she doesn’t rate him and would like his job. It’s no more complicated than that.”
While this may be the case, Keir Starmer’s hands are tied – the position of deputy leader is directly elected by party members, meaning the party leader has no jurisdiction over changing the post.
This could explain, in part, why Sir Keir chose this moment to leak the reshuffle news.
He had hoped to carry out a wider reshuffle in May, in the wake of the loss of the Hartlepool by-election, but more ambitious plans were stymied by a furious standoff with Ms Rayner.
Sir Keir had initially offered to move Ms Rayner from her role as party chair to a frontbench role covering the social care brief, which she regarded as a significant demotion.
Prolonged talks followed, and Ms Rayner flexed her considerable political power, resulting in the significantly beefed-up role as the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster shadowing Michael Gove as well as a newly created post as shadow secretary for the future of work.
In addition to this, she continues her work as deputy party leader, with joint control over party matters with Sir Keir – whether he likes it or not.
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Who was reshuffled in today’s Labour changes?
The full picture is still emerging, but shadow minister Cat Smith, who previously served in Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team, tweeted she would be stepping down.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, along with shadow education and culture secretaries Kate Green and Jo Stevens are also believed to be in the firing line.
The Labour leader is said to be sacking those failing to break through with voters.
Party sources said part of the rationale for changes was that Labour’s shadow cabinet was significantly out of step with the lineup of Johnson’s top team.
Labour continues to have a shadow development secretary – Preet Gill – despite the fact the department has been abolished, for example, while there is no formal shadow for Michael Gove’s department of levelling up.
Shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, and the shadow housing secretary, Lucy Powell, are believed to be strong contenders for that role.
Some party insiders have also suggested the shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, could be moved aside, with the environment part of his brief made a standalone role, to underline the party’s commitment to tackling climate change.
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