‘Nandy’s bruising demotion tells us a lot about Starmerism’

Morgan Jones

Good afternoon, and welcome to LabourList‘s afternoon update. The long expected shadow cabinet reshuffle has come at last, and we now know what Labour’s top team will look like for the final pre-election stretch.

As predicted, Angela Rayner takes over from Lisa Nandy as Shadow Levelling Up Secretary. Rayner also formally becomes Shadow Deputy Prime Minister. As much less predicted, Nandy has moved to the post of shadow minister for international development, under David Lammy (who keeps her old gig as Shadow Foreign Secretary). It’s a pretty bruising demotion, especially when you consider that Labour isn’t even formally committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on international development. Nonetheless, a source close to Nandy asserted that she is a “team player” and will be taking on the role.

Given the general political tenor of the reshuffle, you get the sense that were it not for her independent mandate as deputy and strong connection with the unions, Rayner would be sliding down the ranks alongside Nandy.

Elsewhere, Peter Kyle moves from the Northern Ireland brief to become Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, the role many had tipped for Darren Jones. He instead will join the Shadow Treasury team, in the powerful position of Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury; namely, the person who says “no” to whatever funding asks are put to the leadership. And, we presume, very occasionally “yes”.

Jones will be taking over from Pat McFadden, who snags Rayner’s old position as Shadow Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster. A great political survivor and long-in-tooth Blairite true believer, McFadden’s continued centrality to whatever Starmerism is is one of the ways to easily tag this reshuffle as a political shift to the right. Among the others is the ascension of Liz Kendall to Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. 

The 2015 leadership contender replaces Jon Ashworth, generally seen as of the soft left of the party, who becomes shadow paymaster general. He’s presumably busy working out exactly what that is, which might actually be quite difficult: at present the government website lists precisely no “responsibilities” for the role of paymaster general, though an ally says he’s excited about a role important to “taking on the Tories” . He’ll stay in the shadow cabinet however, as will Nick Thomas Symonds, who becomes shadow minister without portfolio at the Cabinet office.

Elsewhere, we have a straight-ish job swap between Thangam Debbonaire, the former leader of the Commons and now shadow Culture Secretary minus digital duties (she’s a former professional cellist) and Lucy Powell, the former Culture Secretary and now leader of the Commons. Hilary Benn is off the back benches to take over the Northern Ireland brief, despite rumours that it might go to Sarah Jones, who stays in place as policing minister.

Shabana Mahmood takes over from Steve Reed in the Justice brief (McFadden absorbs her National Campaign Coordinator role), while Reed becomes DEFRA Secretary.

Out of the shadow cabinet entirely are Preet Gill, Jim McMahon, and Rosena Allin-Khan, who published a resignation letter that’s an excellent lesson in how to be scathing while maintaining plausible deniability (“You do not see a space for a mental health portfolio in a Labour cabinet”).

We’ll be back with more coverage of the reshuffle and its fall out in our usual morning slot. Do send us your takes (and any tips) to [email protected].

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