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Starmer to reshuffle Labour’s top team amid backlash over ‘baffling and unfair’ Rayner sacking

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Keir Starmer is imminently expected to reshuffle his top team amid recriminations over the party’s poor electoral performance and outrage over the decision to sack Angela Rayner as party chair.

The Independent understands the Labour leader will unveil changes to his shadow cabinet later on Sunday in the first step of a shake-up of the party after he promised changes in response to the defeats on “Super Thursday”.

As well as undertaking a reshuffle, Sir Keir has also hired Gordon Brown’s former chief pollster Deborah Mattinson – who has written a book about why Labour lost the so-called “Red Wall” at the 2019 general election – as director of strategy.

It comes after Ms Rayner, the deputy leader, was removed from her position as national campaigns coordinator and chair on Saturday evening in a surprise move that escalated bitter in-fighting in the party’s ranks.

Ms Rayner will be offered another senior position within Sir Keir’s team, but her office declined to comment, fuelling speculation over whether she will accept an alternative role. It is unclear whether Anneliese Dodds will retain her job as shadow chancellor, after speculation she will be moved from the position.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, said his “understanding is that Angela Rayner is going to take a different position in the shadow cabinet”.

“She has been a fantastic deputy leader, I am proud she is deputy leader of our UK party,” he added.

The move to sack Ms Rayner from the role as party chair and national campaign coordinator led to accusations that Sir Keir was “scapegoating” the senior MP, blaming Labour’s dismal showing on his failure to offer voters a compelling vision.

Reacting to the news, Andy Burnham, who was re-elected as mayor of Greater Manchester with an increased majority just hours earlier, posted on social media: “I can’t support this”.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted that Ms Rayner’s sacking as national campaign coordinator was a “huge mistake” by Sir Keir, adding: “I haven’t spoken to Angie. And let me be clear, I don’t have any brief for Angie - I didn’t support her as deputy leader, I supported Richard Burgon.

“When the leader of the party on Friday said he takes responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool in particular and then scapegoats Angela Rayner, I think many of us feel that is unfair, particularly as we all know actually that Keir’s style of leadership is that his office controls everything.

“It is very centralised and he controlled the campaign, so many of us think it is really unfair.”

Another senior Corbyn-era figure, Diane Abbott, also told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday it was “baffling” why Sir Keir had decided to remove Ms Rayner from the position, adding: “She didn’t take any of the big decisions around Hartlepool and we’ve not heard anywhere in the country people saying they didn’t vote Labour because of Angela Rayner.”

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