Jeremy Corbyn promotes women and ethnic minority MPs to build 'most diverse shadow Cabinet ever'

The Labour leader is rebuilding his top team after a series of resignations

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Indy Politics

Jeremy Corbyn has started work on building a new front bench, plugging gaps in his top team following his re-election as Labour leader last week.

Mr Corbyn began the reshuffle by promoting women and ethnic minority MPs to top positions – after attracting criticism on previous occasions for failing to do so.

Key moves include Diane Abbott to shadow Home Secretary, Clive Lewis to shadow Business Secretary, and Keir Starmer to shadow Brexit Secretary.

Labour said its shadow Cabinet now had the most ethnic minority members in of any Cabinet or shadow Cabinet ever – and that of the three appointed shadow ‘great offices of state’ two were now women. With Ms Abbott now in the home affairs brief, Emily Thornberry retains her position as shadow Foreign Secretary.

Further changes to the top team are expected to continue into Friday. The party leader signalled the start of the reshuffle late on Thursday afternoon by sacking chief whip Rosie Winterton, who had held the job under Ed Miliband. She replaced with Nick Brown, an MP with a reputation as a ruthless enforcer who had held the role under Tony Blair.

Other key appointments as of late on Thursday include Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of the campaign group Liberty, who Mr Corbyn made a Labour peer during the summer. She will take the role of shadow attorney general.

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Shami Chakrabarti joins the shadow Cabinet for the first time

Among new joiners are Mr Starmer, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, who was elected an MP in 2015; and Dawn Butler, who will be shadow Minister for Ethnic Minorities.

Mr Lewis has been moved to the shadow Business Secretary Brief following an altercation at Labour conference of Trident ahead of his speech as shadow Defence Secretary. He however said he was “delighted” with the move and would use the post to build “21st century socialism”. 

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Keir Starmer is in as shadow Brexit Secretary (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Nia Griffith, who resigned after the EU referendum, returns to the shadow Cabinet to take over Mr Lewis’s old role. Jonathan Reynolds also rejoins the shadow cabinet, having previously quit over the sacking of former shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden. Sarah Champion, who “unresigned” during the summer, is now shadow Equalities minister, while Jo Stevens takes the role of shadow Welsh Secretary.

Mr Corbyn's top team was gutted after mass resignations following the European Union referendum campaign in late June. While other MPs stepped in to fill vacant roles, many were left with several to cover alone.

Ms Abbott’s appointment to shadow home secretary apparently signals an intention from Mr Corbyn to take a liberal approach on immigration. The Hackney MP was one of few to publicly speak out against Labour’s controversial “controls on immigration” tea mugs which caused a storm the 2015 general election. She is a long-time campaigner for migrants’ rights and against xenophobia.

Mr Corbyn’s team appeared to take a more nimble approach to the reshuffle than on previous occasions, reacting to social media criticism about London-centric appointments by apparently fast-tracking the release of a list of frontbench MPs from the North in response. 

Despite the ongoing nature of the reshuffle Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the exercise showed “centrist, pro-Europeans have been side-lined” in the team.

Mr Corbyn said in a statement: “These appointments mean, for the first time ever, two out of the three traditional ‘great offices of state’ will be shadowed by women.” He later added that he was “very proud that the Labour Party now has five MPs in our shadow cabinet from the BAME community – the highest number ever in any cabinet or shadow cabinet”.

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