Sat, 20 July 2024

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The House Live All
By Ben Guerin
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From Being "Sacked" To Bagging Three Jobs in 24 Hours – Angela Rayner’s Rise

4 min read

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner emerged from her "sacking" as party chair with a significantly enlarged portfolio of new jobs, in a spectacular power move that revealed a sizeable chink in Keir Starmer's armour.

Rayner, a former shop steward well liked by the unions who served in Jeremy Corbyn's front-bench, is now Shadow First Secretary of State, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster & Shadow Secretary of State for Future of Work.

She is rumoured to have been offered the health brief first, currently occupied by Jon Ashworth, but appears to have brokered a far more expansive role for herself and has consolidated her power at the top of the party as the second most senior party figure to Starmer. 

The assumption from Labour insiders is that she designed the job she wanted, rather than accepting Starmer's first offer.  One said the beleagured leader appeared to have been "steamrolled" into giving in to her demands. 

A source close to Rayner says the new jobs, especially the shadow Future of Work role, have been "built around her" and suit the expertise she has from her background representing workers as a union representative.

She'll be focusing on jobs, wages, regional disparity and levelling up, and taking on Michael Gove at the despatch box: a role that gives her a "foothold on internal party matters, as well as the whole policy agenda," the source said.

They said she will not be line-managing Anneliese Dodds, the former shadow chancellor who now takes on the party chair role and who is also tasked with undertaking a policy review. Nor will she be managing Shabana Mahmood, the new Labour Party National Campaign Coordinator. 

However, they added: "Obviously as deputy leader she is the most senior elected person in the shadow cabinet by definition."

There is no doubt the preceding 24 hours were chaotic, and that there was a vicious briefing war. 

When news broke that Rayner had been sacked from her job as elections coordinator after the loss of the Hartlepool by-election to the Tories and key councils, there was united outcry across all wings of the party that she was being unfairly blamed for the election that Starmer said he would take responsibility for.

It appeared on the surface she had been brutally let go, as it only emerged shortly afterwards that she had been offered another role in the shadow cabinet when the leader's office sent round messages to journalists to clarify the state of play.

A Labour source suggested she had never gone without an alternative offer for any period of time, and it's understood that over the weekend those in the leader's office were mortified at the briefing that she had been sacked, especially since they knew she had been offered an alternative post.  

Yet the headlines that said she had been sacked ran for hours.

Her side had no comment to make on what job she had initially been offered, and whether she had accepted it. 

Some Labour insiders say Rayner was informed she was being moved into a new role out of courtesy – and note this got out to the press before Starmer had even begun to formally reshuffle the rest of the team. 

The resulting furore – with condemnation from across seemingly all wings of the Labour party, from Corbynites to Andy Burnham – made her value to Starmer extremely clear.However, a source close to Rayner said rumours that she was trying to assert her authority were ridiculous, and that a lot of alleged "allies" had spoken out over the weekend that weren't aware of what was going on. 

The briefings continued throughout Saturday night: it was said that Rayner was in the pub, presenting a very relaxed image of a deputy leader with the power in her hands.

As the hours stretched on, the rest of the shadow cabinet had worrying weekends, aware that until that issue was resolved with Rayner, that they wouldn't be getting a phone call until then on whether their jobs were safe. 

Whatever the reality of how the discussions panned out, Rayner emerged with three more jobs to add to her deputy leadership role. 

The former care worker, who left school at 16, tweeted shortly after her appointment that the unions would have a big role to play in Labour's future agenda, and she will help reconnect with voters in traditional heartlands. 

Today she has tweeted support for those who won in the local elections, with messages of support to Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford and his policies, Manchester's Andy Burnham, new mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

There hasn't been a direct tweet about Starmer, but in perhaps a sign of unity the pair were reportedly seen walking together through the very public Portcullis House in the Palace of Westminster this lunchtime, for MPs and journalists to see. 

All eyes will be on whether the leader and deputy can function as a true partnership or if it's the start of an unwanted power struggle Starmer unlikely factored into his rebuilding of the party.

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