Labour reshuffle: Starmer brings Yvette Cooper back to front bench as shadow home secretary

‘Much to do’ says former minister who now takes on Priti Patel

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
,Ashley Cowburn
Monday 29 November 2021 21:53
Angela Rayner claims she ‘doesn’t know details’ of Labour reshuffle

Former minister Yvette Cooper is returning to the Labour front bench following a wide-ranging shadow cabinet reshuffle by Sir Keir Starmer.

The former work and pensions secretary will face Priti Patel as shadow home secretary, replacing Nick Thomas-Symonds in the role. She last held a shadow cabinet position in 2015.

“Much to do,” she tweeted on taking the new job. “The Home Office is badly letting people down.”

Other major changes to Labour’s top team include a scaled-back role for former leader Ed Miliband, who has been stripped of his responsibilities for business policy and will focus on climate and net zero while Jonathan Reynolds becomes shadow business secretary.

Former leadership candidate Lisa Nandy meanwhile moves from shadow foreign secretary to shadow secretary of state for levelling-up, shadowing Michael Gove.

Bridget Philipson replaces Kate Green as shadow education secretary, while Wes Streeting replaces Jonathan Ashworth in the shadow health brief. Mr Ashworth moves to the work and pensions brief.

Mr Thomas-Symonds will shadow international trade while Lucy Powell covers culture. Former transport chief Jim McMahon will cover the environment brief, with Louise Haigh taking over his previous job. Emily Thornberry has been moved to shadow attorney general.

Earlier, the Labour leader sparked a row with his deputy, Angela Rayner, amid claims he did not consult her ahead of a major speech attacking government “corruption” where she appeared to be blindsided as news filtered through of the reshuffle.

Ms Rayner told reporters she was not aware of the “details of any reshuffle” and appeared to criticise the strategy, insisting Labour should needed “some consistency in how we’re approaching things as an opposition”.

Her spokesperson told The Independent they had had a “short conversation” before the speech, but stressed she “was not consulted on the reshuffle” — an account disputed by the Labour leader’s allies.

The flashpoint comes after the pair were previously locked in a stand-off during Sir Keir’s last reshuffle in May where Ms Rayner felt she was being scapegoated for the party’s disastrous Hartlepool by-election result with a proposed demotion.

But bolstered by weeks of allegations of sleaze and divisions in the Conservative ranks over social care and rail infrastructure, alongside polls showing a dip in support for Boris Johnson’s party, the Labour leader pressed ahead with his second reshuffle of the year on Monday to reshape his top team.

Frontbencher Cat Smith was the first to announce her departure with a resignation letter posted on social media on Monday morning — despite receiving an offer from Sir Keir to remain in her current role as shadow minister for democracy.

In a departing shot at the Labour leader, the MP said the failure to reinstate former leader Jeremy Corbyn — who currently sits as an independent MP — in the Parliamentary Labour Party was “utterly unsustainable”.

Shadow attorney general, Lord Falconer, whose earnings outside Parliament came under scrutiny as Labour turned its attack on Conservative sleaze, also announced he was stepping aside from frontline politics in a letter to Sir Keir.

Other departures from the shadow cabinet include Luke Pollard, who said he would spend more time focusing on his constituency.

Mr Miliband downplayed the narrowing of his brief, stating: “I came back to frontline politics because tackling the climate emergency is the most important issue we face.

“We need a Labour government with a dedicated department to decarbonise our economy and deliver climate justice and economic justice together. That’s the work I’ll lead.”

Yet the reshuffle, which largely promoted moderates and centrists, was received poorly by the left of the party. Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "Reviving the careers of former Blairite ministers and simply reappointing existing shadow cabinet ministers to new posts does give the impression of Christmas Past, not Christmas Future."

But Sir Keir said the Labour Party was “focused on the priorities of the country”, describing his new shadow cabinet as “smaller, more focused”.

He said: “I’m particularly delighted that Lisa Nandy will take on the vital role of shadowing Michael Gove and leading on the levelling up agenda. After 11 years of Conservative mismanagement of our economy, delivering prosperity to all regions and nations in the UK will be a defining mission of the next Labour government, and there will be nobody better than Lisa to lead this work.

“Climate change is the most important issue facing this country over the next decade. Ed Miliband will lead in the Shadow Cabinet to develop Labour’s extensive plans for net zero in a first term Labour Government, and hold the government to account for its failure to take action. Ed has a proven track record in government, and is a powerful, internationally well respected voice on the issue, and that’s why I am delighted he has agreed to lead on this.”

He added: “I want to thank all those who have left the shadow cabinet today for their great service to me and to our party.

“I look forward to working with the new team to show we are once again a serious party of Government, ready to fix the mess the Tories have got the country into and to inspire voters to believe that Britain’s best days are ahead of us."

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