Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet – A bold start and six reasons for optimism

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Category: Labour

In other news, Keir Starmer was elected the new Leader of the Labour Party and he has made a bold and impressive start on pulling together a winning team to scrutinise policy and hold the Government to account.  Bringing the Labour Party together and demonstrating that divisions are healed is not an easy job – especially when the world has been turned on its head by Covid19.

Please see our list of Shadow Cabinet appointments and dismissals for ease of reference but to summarise here are 6 key take-aways and observations about Keir’s Shadow Team:

  1. The Shadow Cabinet is clearly now a “broad church” with many of those considered beyond the pale for the Corbynistas brought back into the fold including the highly competent Rachel Reeves in the all-important role of Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and, of course, the other leadership contender and long time critic of Jeremy, Lisa Nandy. Others who we might have expected to get jobs – Yvette Cooper and Lucy Powell for example – didn’t. A small number of Momentum backed MPs remain for now – including Rebecca Long-Bailey and Cat Smith – but their longevity will depend on their (undoubted) merit rather than patronage. Keir’s first Shadow Cabinet is clearly work in progress.
  2. When you review those who have stepped down or been dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet, they were – with just 1 or 2 notable exceptions – the “hardliners” who supported Jeremey to the hilt. Without the likes of Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott, the Shadow Cabinet is likely to be typified by pragmatism and a focus on winning the next general election rather than ideology. Expect a fairly quick return to the centre-left of British politics. In the current Coronavirus crisis, when values of solidarity, collective decision making and the State caring for us all – and even the Queen striking a centre-left tone in her weekend address – this is absolutely the right way to go.
  3. Note the appointment of Ed Miliband as Shadow BEIS Secretary.  The former Labour leader and, perhaps more importantly, the first Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – a post short-sightedly abolished by PM David Cameron in 2016, who failed to see that climate change would re-emerge as a defining political necessity just a few years later – is excellent news for all those who want to see policy development regards the transition to net zero carbon emissions speeded up and done justly.
  4. Although the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary has swapped from north to south with Steve Reed’s appointment in place of Andrew Gwynne, it is worth noting that there are now as many MPs in Keir’s Shadow Cabinet from Greater Manchester as there are from London – 5 each. Equally noteworthy and somewhat surprising there are now none from Liverpool City Region – previously 2. Only the East of England also has no representation at the Shadow Cabinet but then there are only 3 Labour MPs in that region, 17 in Merseyside.
  5. The north does have in total 13 in the Shadow Cabinet with 4 from Yorkshire and the Humber, 3 from the North East and 1 from Lancashire joining the 5 from GM. Add 3 from the Midlands, the same number from Wales and one from Scotland and it is fair to say the regions outside London have a stronger voice at the Shadow Cabinet table. We can therefore expect to see devolution policy – which did not get very far at all when John Trickett insisted it was part of the wider policy of a constitutional convention – moving forward, especially given Keir’s commitment to a more regional and devolved approach in his campaign.  Labour Mayors, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan, and of course Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, will now be influential and listened to by Keir Starmer.
  6. A number of appointments are brave, noteworthy and will be well worth watching. Anneliese Dodds, as Shadow Chancellor, who follows in the footsteps of her Oxford East MP predecessor, Andrew Smith, and lives on a former council estate, has the most difficult job of all; the formidably bright Nick Thomas-Symonds as Shadow Home Secretary who was a university lecturer before most people have graduated; and Thangam Debonnaire, as Shadow Housing Secretary, who has the difficult task of taking forward an affordable housing strategy.

We hope this provides some welcome food for thought. Do get in touch if you want to find out anything more or if we can help during this difficult time.

Gill Morris, Chief Executive & Steve Barwick, Director

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