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Keir Starmer Leans Towards Rejecting PM's New Departments In His Next Labour Reshuffle

Labour leader Keir Starmer outside the BBC's Broadcasting House (Alamy)

3 min read

Keir Starmer is not expected to mirror Rishi Sunak's re-organised government when he eventually reshuffles the shadow cabinet, PoliticsHome understands.

For months the Labour leader has faced questions about when he will adjust his top team, and earlier this summer there was heavy speculation that he would do so immediately after the trio of by-elections on 20 July, before Parliament dispersed for its summer recess.

Starmer, who according to opinion polls is is likely to win the next General Election as things stand, is expected to shuffle his deck shortly after MPs return to Westminster in September. 

Similarly, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also expected to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle when parliament is back, likely before the political party conferences get underway in early October.

Another question that has been hanging over Starmer is whether he will decide to re-arrange his shadow departments to replicate changes made to the machinery of government by the Prime Minister earlier this year, when he created four new departments.

In February, Sunak set up the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ). He also merged the business and trade briefs to create a third new department, the Department for Business and Trade (BAT), and annnounced a slimmed-down Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The February announcement did not prompt the Labour leader to follow suit, despite concern among some shadow ministers that their briefs weren't entirely clear as a result. 

PoliticsHome understands that Starmer isn't minded to mirror the revised machinery of government when he eventually carries out his reshuffle, and that any changes to how shadow departments are organised will reflect how he would deliver his five "missions" if elected. There is thought to be an argument at the top of the party that it ought to be projecting how it would govern, not simply follow Sunak's lead.

A Labour Party source observed that Starmer "seems to be thinking more about how he sees the shape of government on his terms, not their's [the government]".

Alongside the question of when Starmer will hold a shadow cabinet reshuffle has been ongoing speculation over who he will promote and demote as he decides his strongest team to fight the next general election, which is expected to take place at some point in 2024.

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader and shadow chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, has been linked with the levelling-up brief, potentially replacing Lisa Nandy, and there has been some doubt in recent weeks over whether Ed Miliband will be kept on as the shadow secretary of state for climate and net zero, amid tensions within the party over environmental policy.

Back bench MP Darren Jones, who chairs the business select committee, has been tipped for ascension to Starmer's shadow team, as has party campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood.

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