Lisa Nandy denies Keir Starmer humiliated Angela Rayner with timing of frontbench reshuffle

‘I couldn’t care less about the circus of who’s in and who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, who knew, who didn’t’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 30 November 2021 15:56
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Lisa Nandy defends Keir Starmer’s changes to his Labour team

Lisa Nandy has dismissed claims that Keir Starmer snubbed Angela Rayner with the timing of his frontbench reshuffle, insisting it does not matter “who knew” about it.

Allies of Labour’s deputy leader were furious that the shake-up began as she was making a key speech on a sleaze crackdown – and that she first read about it in a newspaper.

But Ms Nandy, who was shifted to the levelling up brief – to take on cabinet big-hitter Michael Gove – said Sir Keir was right to work alone on shadow cabinet appointments.

“The leader makes the decisions, the gaffer picks the team, that’s how it goes and that’s how it has always gone,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the circus of who’s in and who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, who knew, who didn’t.”

Ms Nandy, who was the shadow foreign secretary, also denied that the reshuffle – which saw the return of Tony Blair-era veteran Yvette Cooper, to the home affairs brief – was a shift to the right.

“We’re moving north,” she told Sky News, referring to the focus on levelling up in left-behind areas, adding: “Left or right? You can keep that debate.

“We’re going out into the country and we’re going to start delivering for people in towns, villages and cities that have been completely and utterly abandoned by the political system.”

The Labour leader carried out a ruthless overhaul of his team on Tuesday, including demoting Ed Miliband by taking away his business role and leaving him with climate change.

The former leader had clashed with Sir Keir in September over the watering down of a Corbyn-era policy to nationalise energy companies.

The business portfolio went to Jonathan Reynolds, with promotions for key figures seen as being on the right of the party, to education (Bridget Phillipson) and health (Wes Streeting).

Ms Nandy also said it was up to the government to save Christmas, amid new Covid restrictions which will force more people to isolate in the festive run-up.

The health minister, Gillian Keegan, has admitted that more people will have to isolate as cases of the omicron variant rise, which could put their Christmas plans at risk, though she said that “the chance of that right now is pretty low”.

“I think this is largely in the government’s gift. The vast majority of people are doing what is asked of them – wearing masks, getting the booster jab, social distancing,” Ms Nandy said.

“My little boy’s school has got its doors and windows open, trying to increase ventilation, even in the cold.

“People are trying their best, but there are some big holes in the government’s plans, particularly around travel.”

On the subject of the new testing rules for international arrivals, Ms Nandy added: “Taking a day-2 PCR test is very shambolic for a lot of people. The government isn’t even checking up.”

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