Keir Starmer launches bizarre Labour reshuffle midway through speech of his own deputy

Keir Starmer unexpectedly launched his shadow cabinet reshuffle on Monday - and if the Labour leader was hoping coverage would be about reinvigorating his top team, he was wrong.

Instead, the reshuffle ended up being dominated by how much his own deputy leader - Angela Rayner - did or didn't know about it.

Starmer appeared to blindside Rayner - and many of his own MPs - by beginning to change up his shadow ministers as she addressed the Institute for Government on the issue of 'Tory sleaze'.

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Earlier that day, Rayner had told Times Radio "I reckon that Keir would tell me first" if he were planning a shadow cabinet reshuffle.

However, she appeared taken aback when asked by journalists if she was aware that a reshuffle had already begun.

Rayner starmer (GETTY)
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner appeared blindsided at an Institute for Government when questioned about the reshuffle after she gave a speech on 'Tory sleaze'. (Getty Images)

"In terms of the reshuffle timing, you know, I don't know the details of the reshuffle - or the timing of it," she said. "I've been here concentrating on my role now.

"But six months ago I said, again, we need some consistency on how we're approaching things as an opposition - and I want us to see us as government in waiting."

Cat Smith, now former shadow secretary of state for young people and democracy, appeared to be the first to confirm the reshuffle by posting an image of her resignation letter on Twitter.

In it, she warned Starmer risked damaging the party by not readmitting former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to the party.

Rayner said her focus was on the event. (Institute for Government)
Rayner said she was "concentrating" her speech at the Institute for Government when asked about the reshuffle. (Institute for Government)

Corbyn was suspended last year over his response to a report which found the party under his leadership had acted unlawfully to Jewish members.

While he said antisemitism in the party was "abhorrent", he added "the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons".

Smith described Starmer's position on the issue as "utterly unsustainable".

"You will be aware that we had a meeting scheduled for later this week, during which I wanted to raise the issue of, and my concerns about, Jeremy not being readmitted to the Parliamentary Labour Party after he was readmitted into our party membership following due process," she said.

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“This position is utterly unsustainable.”

The decision is likely to do little to abate concerns of tension between Rayner and Starmer after he sacked her as party chair and national campaign coordinator following the party's painful defeat in the former Labour stronghold of Hartlepool.

Rayner reportedly resisted and was subsequently given the role of shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Watch: Boris Johnson has 'polluted our democracy' with 'corruption', says Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner