Keir Starmer has backed shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds after claims he was considering moving her in a reshuffle of his top team.
On the local election trail yesterday he said she had his “full confidence” and was doing a “fantastic job”.
But the Labour leader faces internal unhappiness that key figures are failing to land blows on the Government.
Labour MPs have told the Mirror they are growing frustrated with shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds and shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds in particular.
While both senior MPs are seen as a “safe pair of hands” who have a firm grip on their briefs, some in the party fear they are struggling to communicate the party’s direction.
There is also “widespread grumbling” over a handful of less high-profile shadow Cabinet ministers who some backbenchers feel are too inexperienced for their posts.
Mr Starmer is believed to be planning to reshuffle his top team later this summer, after Boris Johnson announces his own changes to the Cabinet, potentially in July.
It is thought he could demote shadow cabinet ministers who are thought to have underperformed during his first year as party leader.
But he threw his weight behind his shadow chancellor on a visit in Milton Keynes yesterday, saying: “Anneliese Dodds has my confidence, she has my full confidence, she is doing a fantastic job. And we are one team, and we have got really important elections in May.”
One shadow cabinet minister told the Mirror: “The way this has been focused on Anneliese is unfair and a bit sexist. There is a collective failure of the shadow cabinet. We’re considered by some to be boring and failing to land any blows.”
But another shadow Cabinet minister said: “Keir needs some tough outriders. Nick and Anneliese are very capable but being a safe pair of hands isn’t enough. It means Keir has to do a lot of the heavy lifting himself.”
A third senior Labour source added: “Keir is the leader, he just needs to get out there and lead.”
Others suggested Mr Starmer could be held back from a dramatic reshuffle out of loyalty to his top team – even though the Tories are still ahead in the polls with Boris Johnson benefiting from a “vaccine bounce”.
One Labour insider said: “Lots of people have spoken to Keir about this is the last few weeks and they’ve hit a brick wall. He’s very loyal to those who show loyalty to him”.
The Labour leader, who took over the party a year ago this weekend, has been urged to bring in “big figures” amid concerns his office staff lack experience.
Some MPs claim that chief of staff Morgan McSweeney and political director Jenny Chapman are “letting him down”, suggesting he needs stronger enforcers who “can be a bit ruthless”.
They cited figures like Anji Hunter, Tony Blair’s gatekeeper, and Karie Murphy, who worked for Jeremy Corbyn, who they claimed had been “hard as nails”.
However, others suggested that critics had underestimated the amount of work that needed to be done to get the party back on track after years of infighting under Jeremy Corbyn.
They also highlighted the difficulties of opposition during the pandemic – when the public often expected Labour to put national interest ahead of party fortunes.
The latest reports focus on Ms Dodds, an Oxford-educated economist, who some believe has struggled to take on Chancellor Rishi Sunak and set out the party’s vision.
Shadow Cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves, who has led Labour’s campaign against Tory cronyism and is a former Bank of England economist, could be in line to replace her.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy – one of the party’s top communicators – is also thought to be in the frame, although she lacks relevant experience.
Ex-Cabinet minister Yvette Cooper has also been discussed, however it is unclear whether she would be willing to step down from her chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
A Labour spokesman denied that Ms Dodds would be moved from her role.