Beefier roles for Cooper and others seem to signal intent to move Labour party further towards political centre
Keir Starmer carried out a wholesale overhaul of his shadow cabinet on Monday, bringing Yvette Cooper back on to the frontbench as part of a ruthless shakeup widely viewed at Westminster as accelerating Labour’s shift to the centre under his leadership.
Cooper, who served in the last Labour government, will shadow Priti Patel as home secretary, resuming the spiky interactions the pair have had in Cooper’s current role as chair of the home affairs select committee.
Other significant moves include a promotion for David Lammy to shadow foreign secretary, while Lisa Nandy will face Michael Gove as shadow levelling-up secretary. The radical reshuffle, which blindsided Starmer’s own deputy, left almost no senior role untouched.
“The Labour party I lead is focused on the priorities of the country,” Starmer said. “With this reshuffle, we are a smaller, more focused shadow cabinet that mirrors the shape of the government we are shadowing. We must hold the Conservative government to account on behalf of the public and demonstrate that we are the right choice to form the next government.”
He lavished praise on Nandy, whose shift from shadow foreign secretary to the levelling-up brief would traditionally be regarded as a demotion – though levelling up is politically prominent because it is at the heart of Boris Johnson’s agenda, and the Wigan MP has previously been a strong voice on tackling regional inequalities.
“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,” Starmer said.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves
Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband
Shadow cabinet secretary Jenny Chapman
Shadow defence secretary John Healey
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson
Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds
Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh
Shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry
Shadow minister for mental health Rosena Allin-Khan
Shadow minister for international development Preet Gill
Shadow Treasury chief secretary Pat McFadden
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle
Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray
Shadow Wales secretary Jo Stevens
National campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood
Shadow leader of the House of Commons Thangam Debbonaire
Shadow leader of the House of Lords Angela Smith
Shadow chief whip Alan Campbell
Opposition chief whip in the House Roy Kennedy
Ed Miliband loses his responsibility for the business portfolio, which goes to Jonathan Reynolds. Starmer underlined the importance of Miliband’s new role as shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, calling him “a powerful, internationally well-respected voice on the issue”.
But Miliband will have no department to shadow directly. He and Starmer had clashed at Labour’s annual conference over policies including nationalising energy firms.
The promotion of key figures from the right of the party – including Bridget Phillipson and Wes Streeting, to education and health respectively – together with the demotions of several on the soft left, including Miliband, Kate Green, who will return to the backbenches, and Nick Thomas-Symonds, moved from Home Office shadow to international trade, appeared to point to a fresh shift towards the political centre.
Streeting inherited the shadow health secretary role from Jon Ashworth, who is moving to work and pensions, while former leadership contender Emily Thornberry switched from international trade to become shadow attorney general, replacing the peer Charlie Falconer.
Starmer moved Jo Stevens from the digital, culture, media and sport brief to be the shadow Welsh secretary, replacing Nia Griffiths, who had remained in the shadow cabinet since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Cat Smith, a shadow Cabinet Office minister, quit with a barb at Starmer, saying she was “one of our few remaining ‘red wall’ Labour MPs”. She also raised concerns that Corbyn still had the party’s whip suspended.
Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, was blindsided by the overhaul on Monday morning, with the Labour leader informing her in a brief chat as she moved between a media round and a major speech on parliamentary standards, which was overshadowed by reshuffle rumours.
Rayner’s spokesperson said she had been informed of a plan on Monday morning but insisted she was given no indication it would go ahead the same day and was not consulted.
One Rayner ally said Starmer would have been fully aware the move would “blow up” her bid to lay out plans for reforming the standards system and said it was “not fair”. A second said she had been “gazumped” and complained at the “utterly bizarre” timing. However, other senior Labour sources disputed that Rayner had been blindsided, with a shadow cabinet minister insisting “she definitely knew”.
A reboot was favoured by Starmer’s team to capitalise on Conservative backbench revolts and Johnson’s slump in the polls. Starmer had hoped to carry out a wider reshuffle in May after Labour lost the Hartlepool byelection, but more ambitious plans were stymied by an angry standoff with Rayner over a change to her role.
The leader tried to sack Rayner as party chair and campaigns coordinator, but she resisted and emerged with an enlarged role.
On Monday Rayner signalled her opposition to a reshuffle, saying the party should be “focused on getting us into power” and that if the party was diverting attention away from that mission, it was letting people down.Since Starmer’s last reshuffle in May, in which the shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, was replaced by the more high-profile Rachel Reeves, a string of senior staff have departed from his inner team. These included his longtime adviser Ben Nunn and chief of staff Chris Ward, as well as political director Lady Chapman, now a frontbench spokesperson in the House of Lords.