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Keir Starmer takes the gentle approach to wielding the knife in first reshuffle

·3-min read

Reshuffles can be bloody affairs but vegetarian Sir Keir Starmer opted to do very little culling in his first attempt since becoming Labour leader.

Many of the rumoured sackings did not materialise, with the likes of Lisa Nandy keeping her shadow foreign role, while mooted promotions for Steve Reed and Wes Streeting were either put on ice or ended up being fairly minor.

Coming in the aftermath of the shock Hartlepool by-election defeat, the biggest change was the decision to promote Rachel Reeves to shadow chancellor – often seen as the second most powerful job in the shadow cabinet.

But even Sir Keir’s move to oust Anneliese Dodds from the position came with a soft landing, as she was handed the role of party chairman and chair of Labour policy review.

She takes the chairman role from deputy leader Angela Rayner, who was fired on Saturday as recriminations over Labour’s poor local election performance kicked into gear.

When Ms Dodds was appointed shadow to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, commentators expressed surprise that senior figure Ms Reeves had been overlooked.

Having put in a number of assured performances at the Commons despatch box opposite Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove in her former role, Ms Reeves had been heavily tipped by pundits to take a more prominent position at some point, so her elevation did not come as a great surprise.

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Another overhaul Sir Keir undertook was sacking Nick Brown, the party’s chief whip.

The saying goes in politics that chief whips know where the bodies are buried and are viewed as dangerous people to upset.

However, after briefings emerged in the press that it was Mr Brown’s decision to hold the Hartlepool by-election on the same day as the Super Thursday elections, thereby putting greater focus on it, Sir Keir looks to have opted to quietly move him aside and bring in his own man in the form of Sir Alan Campbell.

Lisa Nandy had been rumoured to lose her shadow foreign secretary position
Rumours that Lisa Nandy would lose her shadow foreign secretary position proved false (Jane Barlow/PA)

The greatest issue for Sir Keir after the reshuffle, which was more minor touch-ups than wholesale renovation, will be his relationship with his elected deputy Ms Rayner.

There was an outcry in some sections of the party after Ms Rayner was sacked as chairman and national campaign co-ordinator following Labour’s dismal showing in Hartlepool and at local authority level.

Party sources stressed after the firing that the former social care worker and union rep would be offered a “senior role” in Sir Keir’s team in the reshuffle.

As the announcement on the changes dragged on through Sunday, reports dripped out that there was a stand-off between the Opposition leader and Ms Rayner over how substantial her new role would prove to be.

In the end, she was handed not one but multiple jobs, being appointed shadow first secretary of state, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – replacing Ms Reeves – and shadow secretary for the future of work.

After the reshuffle announcement, Ms Rayner vowed to make Labour a party that “speaks for the working class”, and tweeted: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Sir Keir could well be wondering whether there is any hint of a threat in that statement from his deputy.