Angela Rayner Speech Derailed By Surprise Reshuffle Of Labour Shadow Cabinet
Labour leader Keir Starmer has begun a surprise reshuffle of his Shadow Cabinet.
The timing of the move has angered allies of the party's deputy leader Angela Rayner, who was delivering a major speech in Westminster when news of the reshuffle broke.
Starmer's spokesperson confirmed on Monday lunchtime that the Labour leader had started reshuffling his top team.
Shadow Minister for Young People & Democracy Cat Smith appeared to be the first casualty of the reshuffle, after she tweeted a letter resigning from her front bench position.
"It’s been an honour to serve on the Labour front bench since 2015 but I’m looking forward to spending even more time at home here in Lancashire and standing up for my constituents," she wrote.
Smith, who was part of Rayner's shadow team, in her letter to Starmer said she had turned down his offer to stay in her job, citing his refusal to readmit the party's former leader Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour MP as a reason.
She said this position was "utterly unsustainable" and told him: "It is important that you truly understand how much damage this is causing in Constituency Labour Parties and amongst ordinary members, a number of whom are no longer campaigning."
Nick Thomas-Symonds is set to be removed as Shadow Home Secretary. Current Shadow Cabinet members Bridget Phillipson and Wes Streeting are tipped for promotions, as is senior MP and Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Yvette Cooper.
Starmer started the reshuffle as Rayner was delivering a speech on lobbying in the wake of the Owen Paterson and second jobs scandal, prompting angry reactions from from her allies.
"Trying to sack Angela and make her the scapegoat for Hartlepool was stupid. But doing a reshuffle when she’s literally on her feet giving a speech attacking the Tories for being corrupt is just plain offensive," a friend of Rayner was reported to have said.
Her spokesperson told PoliticsHome that she knew a reshuffle was coming but was not aware of the details.
"My understanding is that Keir and Angela had a short conversation in between her media round and her speech," they said. "She was not aware of the details of the reshuffle and she was not consulted on the reshuffle as she said herself."
However, allies of Starmer insisted Rayner had not been blindsided. One told PoliticsHome that she was aware a reshuffle would take place today following an in-person conversation with Starmer this morning.
Rayner herself appeared to be blindesided by developments when questioned about the rumours during her speech at the Institute For Government think tank.
"I'm not sure of the details of the reshuffle, but I do know that what we have to do is show that we are a government in waiting and that we have to be the next government because we can't carry on like this," she said.
"We need some consistency in how we’re approaching things as an opposition."
A senior Labour MP described the timing of the reshuffle as "very odd" but said Starmer needed to shake up his top team to take the fight to the Conservatives.
"Keir has wanted to cull Shadow Cabinet for sometime (and needed to, frankly). Now we are on the up, he needs a team he can rely on to do the heavy lifting in place," they said.
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