How balanced is Labour leader Keir Starmer’s new shadow cabinet?

Elliot Chappell

New Labour leader Keir Starmer has appointed lots of new faces to the shadow cabinet. After emphasising the need for party unity throughout his campaign, he promised that his shadow cabinet would be “balanced across the party”, “balanced across the country” and “balanced in terms of diversity”.

Rewarding friends and keeping enemies close…

Consistent with his message of unity, Keir Starmer has offered positions to his leadership rivals, with Lisa Nandy becoming the Shadow Foreign Secretary and Rebecca Long-Bailey taking the education portfolio.

A total of 20 MPs in the new shadow cabinet supported Keir Starmer’s leadership bid, while four backed Rebecca Long-Bailey and three supported Lisa Nandy.

Some notable if unsurprising names have left the shadow cabinet include Richard Burgon, Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery. All were key allies of the outgoing leader and were also supportive of Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader.

In contrast, 14 of the last Labour shadow cabinet supported the left-wing candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader in the recent contest – while 11 backed Keir Starmer. The full list of those leaving the shadow cabinet is as follows:

  • Tracy Brabin
  • Richard Burgon
  • Dawn Butler
  • Dan Carden
  • Shami Chakrabarti
  • Peter Dowd
  • Barry Gardiner
  • Margaret Greenwood
  • Andrew Gwynne
  • Barbara Keeley
  • Ian Lavery
  • Rachael Maskell
  • Christina Rees
  • Jon Trickett

BAME representation has doubled…

As before, one holder of the four great offices of state is BAME – with Diane Abbott stepping down as Home Secretary but Lisa Nandy replacing Emily Thornberry as Foreign Secretary.

Overall, the number of BAME figures in the new shadow cabinet is seven (Lisa Nandy, David Lammy, Preet Kaur Gill, Thangam Debbonaire, Marsha de Cordova, Rosena Allin-Khan and Valerie Vaz) compared to four in the previous cabinet (Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Valerie Vaz and Shami Chakrabarti).

More women than men…

With Anneliese Dodds joining Lisa Nandy as Chancellor, Keir Starmer has selected two women for the top jobs. 17 of the positions in the new leader’s shadow cabinet are women while 15 are men. This replaces a shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn with a total of 11 women.

Co-op Party, Fabian Society and Labour Together feature heavily…

There are eight Co-op Party MPs in the new shadow cabinet, including the chair of the group in parliament: Jim McMahon. He is joined by Anneliese Dodds, Preet Kaur Gill, Jon Ashworth, Jonathan Reynolds, Steve Reed, Luke Pollard and Lord McAvoy.

There are also 15 MPs who are members of the Fabian Society, including Keir Starmer himself. Also members of the Labour-affiliated organisation are Angela Rayner, Anneliese Dodds, Lisa Nandy, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Rachel Reeves – taking up five of the biggest jobs.

Thangam Debbonaire, Ed Miliband, Steve Reed, Lisa Nandy, Jim McMahon, Bridget Phillipson, Marsha de Cordova and David Lammy are all involved with Labour Together – a group currently conducting a review into the 2019 election defeat.

It’s a younger shadow cabinet…

The new shadow cabinet under Keir Starmer is significantly younger than the previous one, with an average age of 50. The youngest member on the shadow cabinet is Louise Haigh at 32, while Lord McAvoy is the oldest at 76. In comparison, the average age of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet was 60.

There’s a relatively young line-up for the four big positions as well: Keir Starmer is 57; Anneliese Dodds as Chancellor is 42; Nick Thomas-Symonds as Home Secretary is just 39; and Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy is 40. In comparison, Jeremy Corbyn is 70; John McDonnell is 68; Diane Abbott 66; and Emily Thornberry 59.

The geographic spread is similar… 

There are now six MPs representing London seats in the shadow cabinet, compared to seven in the last. There are 15 MPs representing northern constituencies, four from Wales, three from the Midlands, one from the South East and two from the South West – and the new shadow cabinet includes the only remaining Labour MP for Scotland: Murray.

This replaces the previous shadow cabinet, which had 15 from northern constituencies, seven MPs from London, three from the Midlands, two from Wales and one from the South West.

Most are new to parliament…

The new shadow cabinet members largely entered parliament in the past ten years, with many only taking their seats for the first time in 2015. Only seven were elected before 2010 and Nick Brown is the longest sitting of the bunch, having joined parliament in 1983.

A total of six were elected in the 2010 election while a further nine joined in 2015, including Keir Starmer himself. Four were elected at the 2017 general election – including Dodds, whose has seen a meteoric promotion in being elevated to the role of Shadow Chancellor so soon.

12 of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet members were first elected to parliament before 2010 with several –  including the former leader, Diane Abbott, John Healey, JOhn McDonnell, Tony Lloyd, Nick Brown, Jon Trickett and Barry Gardiner – elected before 2000. Three more were elected to parliament in 2010, while Jeremy Corbyn selected a further eight for shadow positions from the 2015 intake and two from 2017.

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