Starmer’s leadership has seemingly charted a three-stage course – internal reform of the party; defining the Conservatives; and setting out Labour’s vision for government.
His reshuffle this week shows that Starmer has now reached the third stage of that journey and his increasing control over the Party means that he’s not afraid to be ruthless when it comes to picking who he believes are the right people for the job. The promotion of Liz Kendall, Peter Kyle, Darren Jones and Pat McFadden leaves a team much more strategically and politically aligned to his and the electorate’s will.
If we cast our minds back, we shouldn’t forget this Shadow Cabinet is a long way from his first which had included both Rebecca Long-Bailey and Andy McDonald, both of whom are considered on the left. Starmer has previously been canny in choosing the balanced Shadow Cabinet team that internal reform necessitated. Now, as that the salience of internal party issues has receded, there are more natural supporters of Tony Blair in Keir Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet, than there were in Tony Blair’s final actual Cabinet.
Much has been said of Angela Rayner’s replacement of Lisa Nandy. DLUHC is a policy-heavy brief, yet the early indications from Angela and Keir’s office seem to suggest that her role will be focused much more on the campaign aspect of her brief, rather than delving deep into policy intricacies. This gives an indication for what might be replicated across the Shadow Cabinet. Win first; keep the finer details of policy in the background until after the election. Whilst Keir is fifteen points ahead in the polls, there’ll be few dissenting voices to this reshuffle. Rosena Allin-Khan is almost the exception that proves the rule. The demotion of so-called ‘soft-left’ MPs Preet Gill, Jon Ashworth and Lisa Nandy has been done with little or no anti-Starmer briefing from their allies.
This week is a significant pivot point in Keir Starmer’s leadership. Whilst all eyes will be on how this new team performs, Labour knows that it still has some distance to travel if they are to win their first election since 2005. After this week, Starmer now travels with a team of his own choosing.