Left-winger Cat Smith quit with a broadside at Sir Keir over Jeremy Corbyn – as deputy leader Angela Rayner said she had been unaware the reshuffle was taking place
Keir Starmer today kicked off his second shadow cabinet reshuffle in just seven months – blindsiding his own deputy leader.
Angela Rayner appeared baffled in a public event as the leader began phoning shadow ministers while she was giving a speech on kicking sleaze out of politics.
According to the Times, those at risk included Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, education chief Kate Green and culture chief Jo Stevens, with Yvette Cooper tipped to take Mr Thomas-Symonds’ job.
Cat Smith was the first out as the shake-up began. In her post since 2016, she resigned as Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and marking the exit of one of Jeremy Corbyn’s last loyal shadow cabinet members.
She quit despite being offered to stay, launching a broadside into Keir Starmer over the restore the Labour whip to ex-leader Mr Corbyn.
She wrote: “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 [Corbyn] 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.”
The reshuffle came on a day of dramatic Covid news, with the government introducing new restrictions on face masks and travel in England. Boris Johnsonfaced calls from Wales and Scotland to go further and impose 8-day isolation on all arrivals, after community transmission of the Omicron variant was detected.
It’s thought deputy leader Angela Rayner was told a reshuffle was imminent before her speech at the Institute for Government in London.
Her spokesman insisted “she wasn’t aware of the detail of the reshuffle and she wasn’t consulted”.
But a shadow Cabinet source told the Mirror: “This is all very curious. Angela has been telling us she would sort a reshuffle for months and that Keir couldn’t do it without her. And now it happens she’s saying she knew nothing about it.”
The last time there was a reshuffle, Sir Keir sacked her as party chair, only for her to win a job title more than 20 words long when she fought back.
Questioned at today’s event, Ms Rayner told journalists: “I don’t know the details of any reshuffle, I’ve been concentrating on the job I have been doing.”
She added Labour had to “show that we are a government in waiting”.
It is understood Ms Rayner knew a reshuffle was imminent – and met in person with Sir Keir this morning – but did not know exactly when it would take place.
Her spokesman said: “Keir and Angela had a short conversation in between her media round and her speech.
“I’m not aware of the contents of that conversation but she wasn’t aware of the detail of the reshuffle and she wasn’t consulted on the reshuffle.”
Asked about the timing of the reshuffle, Ms Rayner’s spokesman said: “Angela thinks it’s important that the public hears what we said about the government being corrupt.”
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Ms Smith was one of the longest-serving members of the Shadow Cabinet, keeping her job since 2016.
In her letter, Ms Smith – who it’s understood had planned to resign later this week – said she also wanted to quit because of Labour’s failure to back proportional representation for the voting system.
She wrote: “You will also be aware that I am a longstanding advocate of proportional representation.
“I am disappointed that we, as a party, have not adopted a position which I believe to be fundamentally fairer and very much in keeping with the views of many of my constituents.”
A motion on backing PR was put to Labour’s conference but failed due to the opposition of unions.