Rayner appears blindsided as Starmer launches Labour reshuffle during speech

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Labour’s deputy leader appears to have been blindsided by a shadow cabinet reshuffle taking place as she delivered a key speech on standards.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer launched his overhaul as Angela Rayner gave a speech on standards in public life to the Institute for Government (IfG).

But his second-in-command, who he became locked in a standoff with the last time he revamped his top team, said she had not been aware the move was happening at the same time as her event and had not been consulted.

Sir David Amess funeral
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

During the question and answer session after Ms Rayner’s speech, Labour shadow Cabinet member Cat Smith confirmed the reshuffle had started by writing on Twitter that she would be resigning and returning to the backbenches.

The fact Sir Keir was about to act was also being widely reported as Ms Rayner spoke.

Following the speech, a spokesperson for Sir Keir confirmed a reshuffle was under way.

Asked after her speech about Sir Keir’s move, Ms Rayner said she did not “know the details of any reshuffle” but that “we need some consistency in how we’re approaching things as an opposition”.

“I’ve been concentrating on the job that I’m doing,” she added.

And she said that everything the Labour Party should be doing was focusing on getting into power.

A spokesperson for Ms Rayner later said that she had a short conversation with Sir Keir between her morning media interviews and her IfG event and that she was aware there may be a reshuffle.

Opposition Day debate
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner listens as Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during a press conference outlining Labour’s plan for improving politics ahead of Wednesday’s Opposition Day debate. Picture date: Tuesday November 16, 2021.

He added: “She was not aware of the details of the reshuffle and she was not consulted on the reshuffle.”

In a letter to Sir Keir, Ms Smith the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood wrote: “Thank you for your call this morning and for outlining your intentions regarding the reshuffle.

“It has been an honour to serve in the Shadow Cabinet since June 2016 and on the Labour front bench since September 2015.

“Although I am grateful for your offer to remain in my current brief, I have only been on the backbenches for four months in my six and a half years as an MP and I will instead be returning to the backbenches.”

And in a deepening of the rift in the party, she warned Sir Keir about the “damage” Labour was suffering because former leader Jeremy Corbyn is not being re-admitted to the party.

Her letter said: “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.

“This position is utterly unsustainable and it is important that you truly understand how much damage this is causing in Constituency Labour Parties and amongst ordinary members, a number of whom are no longer campaigning.”

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