Starmer’s office reshuffle and Labour’s call for a “long-term NHS rescue plan”

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Keir Starmer’s reshuffle of his top team continues. The widely anticipated departure of Jenny Chapman as director of politics in the leader’s office has now been confirmed, with the peer now going to be shadow Brexit minister in the Lords. With the two most senior communications staffers going, Deborah Mattinson coming in as director of strategy soon and chief of staff Morgan McSweeney’s role changing, the Labour leader will have a very different top team all of a sudden.

You can read my thoughts on the latest development here and how these changes will be a serious test of Starmer’s management skills. Now starts the speculation on potential new arrivals. I’m told that Pippa Crerar and Kevin Maguire of The Mirror have both been touted for the comms director role, while The Guardian reports that TV producer Rob Burley is being considered (which would be a move à la Robbie Gibb).

Meanwhile, Labour is talking about the need to avoid further surges of Covid and other respiratory illnesses creating a “perfect storm” this winter that could hamper efforts to clear backlogs in the NHS. Jon Ashworth has called for “a long-term NHS rescue plan from Boris Johnson”. Ministers instead appear to be focusing on their desire to ensure a proper ‘Freedom Day’ takes place next month that would see all restrictions lifted, including social distancing and face coverings.

The Covid data is certainly encouraging in terms of cases not leading to deaths in the same way as before, and nobody wants lockdowns to be used as a way of relieving pressure on the NHS forever, which is a real risk if the Tory reluctance to give the NHS the funding it needs outweighs their dislike of lockdowns. But it is worrying that we are hearing very little about planning for the annual winter crisis that will be more complicated this year than in pre-Covid times – even if there is not another deadly wave thanks to people being double/triple-jabbed, there is an exhausted workforce, the impacts of grief and lockdown on mental health, and long Covid to contend with.

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