LONDON — U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer bolstered his deputy and effectively demoted a one-time leadership rival as he reshuffled his top team Monday.
The opposition boss, whose party is ahead of the governing Conservatives in the polls with an expected 2024 general election looming, made a host of changes to his front bench line-up Monday morning, including declaring that Angela Rayner — who gets a new gig — will become deputy prime minister if Labour wins office.
Rayner, the directly-elected Labour deputy leader who Starmer has previously clashed with but who provides an important link with the party’s grassroots membership, moves from shadowing the Cabinet Office to become housing and leveling-up secretary.
But Lisa Nandy, who ran for Labour leader in the 2020 contest that saw Starmer triumph and once served as shadow foreign secretary, moves from the leveling-up brief to become Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development.
That move will be seen in Westminster as a demotion for Nandy given that the U.K. currently has no department for international development after the Conservatives scrapped it in 2020 and merged it with the foreign office.
Nandy is seen as a key figure in the party’s soft-left faction. Since taking office, Starmer has attempted to move the party closer to the perceived political center-ground. An ally of Nandy warned against moving her on Monday morning, telling POLITICO London Playbook: “You’d be getting rid of someone on the soft left and a standard-bearer for that wing of the party.”
Starmer also moved to slim down his Shadow Cabinet, scrapping Cabinet-level posts for mental health and the future of work, and reward allies.
Pat McFadden – a former adviser to then-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and one of the key advocates of fiscal discipline in the party — becomes Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and national campaign coordinator. That latter role will be crucial as Labour readies for a general election.
Shabana Mahmood, who relinquishes the national campaign coordinator post, has been rewarded with the job of shadow secretary of state for justice, a move up to a full shadow cabinet gig.
Liz Kendall — who unsuccessfully ran for Labour leader in 2015 and is seen as on the right of the party — is promoted to become work and pensions secretary, while Jon Ashworth, the previous occupant of that post, becomes shadow paymaster general.
Also stepping down in the reshuffle is shadow secretary of state for environment, food, and rural affairs Jim McMahon.
The Labour reshuffle is also being closely watched to see whether Starmer mirrors departmental changes made by Rishi Sunak, after the Tory prime minister set up a dedicated tech and innovation ministry and hived off the energy department from the department for business.
This developing story is being updated. Dan Bloom contributed reporting.
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