GK Associate Director David Mitchell looks at the Labour Party’s reshuffle of its Shadow Cabinet, and what we can understand from Sir Keir Starmer’s new look team.
The Leader of the Opposition’s Office has invested enormous energy to underpin the value of message discipline into the Labour ranks in the first half of this year. This has centred around the importance of fiscal responsibility, which must trump all else. As Parliament returns today, Keir and his team has convened a team that has experience and consists of media performers to communicate that message to the voters.
The influence of Labour’s most electorally successful leader Tony Blair was evident in today’s reshuffle. From a commitment over the weekend not to raise income tax in the next Parliament (similar to the run up to the 1997 election), to today’s announcement that saw the promotion of Blairites such as Pat McFadden and Liz Kendall. The former was Blair’s Political Secretary and will now take up the role of Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and National Campaign Co-ordinator. In this role Pat will be responsible for ensuring the party is externally aligned across all shadow departments, as well as ensuring a co-ordinated message is presented to the electorate.
This reshuffle was not just about the removal of the remaining remnants of the Corbyn years but was notable for the pivot away from those seen as from the ‘soft left’ of the Labour Party. Lisa Nandy, seen as the face of this wing of the Party, has found herself demoted from the strategically important levelling up brief to Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development. In this context, today’s reshuffle reflects not just a gradual move in the political direction of the Labour Party, but a substantial positioning of the Party in the centre ground.
The decisiveness of Keir’s reshuffle today is a culmination of changes through the party’s structures including the National Executive Committee, but also a reflection of a healthy and sustained polling lead that the Party has held since the start of 2022. Of course, Keir does not have everything his own way. His relationship with Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, which has been described as ‘tense’ and ‘challenging’ saw Angela emerge as a big winner, adopting the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling up brief.
This is a team that Keir is now confident that he can go to party conference in Liverpool in a few weeks’ time, and present as a government in waiting. LOTO will be aware there will be a buoyant atmosphere and excitement with delegates and activists in attendance, he will now hope his new team will importantly rub off with the voters watching at home.