Angela Rayner will become deputy prime minister if Labor comes to power and takes on the leveling up mission, part of a long-awaited shadow cabinet reshuffle that has also seen several of the party’s right-wing MPs promoted ahead of the next general election .
In a broad series of changes in which MPs from the Blairite wing have largely prospered at the expense of those seen as more on the soft left, Lisa Nandythe former shadow secretary for upgrading, has been demoted to the position of head of international development.
With Keir Starmer Looking to get his favorite team in place before the election, Pat McFadden got a big promotion from number 2 in the Treasury team to head of the Cabinet Office and co-ordinator of Labour’s national campaigns.
Liz Kendall, a former shadow health minister and longtime Blair-era party aide who ran against Jeremy Corbyn for the Labor leadership in 2015, replaced Jonathan Ashworth as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. Peter Kyle, another former Blair aide, has been promoted to shadow science secretary.
Starmer said that after having “made considerable efforts to change the Work party”, he now had a “strong team on the ground” in the run-up to the elections, capable of bringing about the change the country needed.
A senior ally said the reshuffle would “put round pegs in round holes”, bring in weighty experience – including a handful of MPs with experience as ministers and aides – and put the party on a solid footing electoral by strengthening its political functioning.
Nonetheless, even some Labor moderates were uncomfortable with the so-called “Blairist takeover”, which they believed had been orchestrated in part by unelected party officials. Momentum, the far-left group, said the reshuffle represented “further shrinking behind a Blairite agenda” that was not fit for today’s challenges.
Sue Gray, Starmer’s new chief of staff who officially took office on Monday, has played a leading role in the reshuffle, including leading some negotiations with Rayner over his wish to retain responsibility for the new Labor deal for workers .
She was also in the room as the Labor leader carried out his particularly smooth reshuffle by telephone, a marked contrast to the chaos that followed changes to his top team in May 2021, after the Hartlepool by-election, when Rayner rebuffed attempts to demote her.
As MPs returned to Parliament after the summer recess, senior members of the shadow cabinet, including Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, remained in their roles.
Other MPs responsible for Starmer’s “five missions”like Wes Streeting on health, Bridget Phillipson on education and Ed Miliband on net zero, remain in office.
Shabana Mahmood, who was Labour’s national campaigns coordinator, takes over the role of shadow justice secretary held by Steve Reed since 2021. Mahmood, a qualified lawyer, is a Starmer ally who has been credited with helping transform the party and his campaign machine.
Lucy Powell, the former shadow culture secretary, was also replaced by Thangam Debbonaire, who was the shadow leader of the Commons. In a direct exchange, Powell becomes shadow leader of the Commons, where she will take charge of planning Labour’s first King’s Speech if it wins power.
Peter Kyle, who was Northern Ireland’s shadow secretary, takes up the previously vacant role overseeing the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, which was only created in February. Kyle is replaced in the Northern Ireland brief by Hilary Benn, the former senior minister.
Darren Jones, the rising backbencher who chairs the Commons business committee, had been tipped for the job, but instead becomes shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Reeves’ second-in-command, to McFadden’s place.
McFadden will be supported by Ashworth, who will take on the role of “shadow minister for the Today programme” and help with election preparations, alongside Ellie Reeves, who has long experience in the party and will sit on the governing NEC.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow international trade secretary, has been moved to a more general role, becoming shadow minister without portfolio.
Reaction to the changes was initially muted among those affected, with a source close to Nandy saying she was a “team player and looking forward to getting stuck into her new role”. However, one ally said she was “devastated” by this decision. She will sit in the cabinet although the mandate is part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Rosena Allin Khan resigned as shadow minister for mental health, a departure believed to be linked to his frustration that the role would not benefit from cabinet status.
Preet Gill, replaced by Nandy in the international development role, expressed at least passive discontent in repost a tweet from a charity campaigner who said they were “absolutely gutted”, Gill was gone.
Confirming speculation that there would be changes in the junior ranks of the shadow cabinet, the reshuffle began when shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon, long tipped for a demotion, announced he would resign. One party member suggested he had “seen the writing on the wall” regarding his future in Starmer’s top team.
The reshuffle follows months of speculation that Rayner could be moved as Starmer tried to trim his team to reflect that of the government ahead of the next election. She joked last October that: “I’ll definitely be deputy prime minister, otherwise Keir’s in trouble”, describing herself as “John Prescott in a skirt” to Starmer’s Tony Blair.