Ms Rayner appeared to have been caught off-guard as details of the Labour leader’s reshuffle emerged publicly while she was delivering a major speech on reform standards in public life amid a toxic row over sleaze and corruption in politics.
Frontbencher Cat Smith was first to announce her resignation on social media after taking a call from Sir Keir regarding his plans on Monday morning.
The MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, shadow minister for democracy, said she had been invited to carry on in her role – but decided to step down to focus “on my Lancashire constituency”.
Outlining issues on which she clashed with Sir Keir, Ms Smith said the failure to reinstate former leader Jeremy Corbyn – who currently sits as an independent MP – in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was “unsustainable”.
The Independent also understands the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has been demoted in the reshuffle, but it was not immediately clear what position he had been offered by Sir Keir.
During her speech at the Institute for Government (IfG) on Monday, Ms Rayner appeared blindsided, telling reporters she was not aware of reshuffle details at the end of a major speech on standards.
“I don’t know the details of any reshuffle – I’ve been concentrating on the job that I’m doing”, she said as she used her speech to highlight claims of sleaze that have caused turmoil in the Conservative Party in recent weeks.
Labour confirmed to The Independent that a reshuffle was under way on Monday, with an announcement expected once the changes to Sir Keir’s team have been confirmed.
Appearing to express her frustration over the shake-up “we need some consistency in how we’re approaching things as an opposition, adding that everything the Labour Party should be doing was focusing on getting into power.
A spokesperson for the deputy leader said: “Keir and Angela had a short conversion in between media round and her speech.
“I’m not aware of the contents of that conversation, but she was not aware of the details of the reshuffle and she was not consulted on the reshuffle — as she said herself.”
Questioned on whether the timing of the reshuffle had overshadowed her speech on reforming standards in public life, they added: “Angela’s absolutely dedicated to exposing corruption in this government — that’s what she’s been working on the last few months and setting out Labour’s alternative.”
In her resignation letter, Ms Smith also expressed her disappointment Labour had not adopted a clear position on proportional representation, which she suggested would to be “fundamentally fairer” electoral system.
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