The new shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, has dismissed a rift between Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, saying the Labour leader had a right to make the calls on how he chose his frontbench.
Nandy said she saw her new role as being “to deliver on the broken promises of the last 11 years” and said there was a “hell of a lot to do” in the department of levelling up, housing, communities, and local government.
Nandy, who was moved to shadow Michael Gove and was replaced by David Lammy as shadow foreign secretary, said she had not spoken to Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, since the party’s reshuffle was announced.
Rayner’s allies have said they were furious that the changes began during a key speech she was giving to the Institute for Government on cleaning up politics in the wake of the scandals over Conservative lobbying.
“I have not spoken to Angela since the reshuffle was announced,” Nandy said. “I have been too busy getting a team together and putting a plan together.”
“I have been through a lot of reshuffles over the past 11 years,” she added. “I think that the leader makes the decisions, the gaffer picks the team, that’s how it goes and that’s how it has always gone. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the circus of who’s in, and who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, who knew, who didn’t.”
Nandy said her new role was “a very long title that Michael Gove has concocted for himself”, but said it was a big agenda she wanted to embrace.
“It felt a little like coming home, to be honest,” she said. “For the entire time I’ve been in parliament, for the last 11 years, I’ve been fighting for politicians of all political parties to take seriously the fact that there are people across this country who have watched good jobs and investment leave our communities.
“That we have got a level of ambition that just isn’t matched by politicians of any political party, certainly not this one, for our futures for our young people, for our towns, and for our villages.
“Finally I can say that that is going to change and I am going to make it my mission to bring Labour home to people and to deliver on promises that the government simply isn’t capable of doing.”
Starmer lavished praise on Nandy, whose shift from shadow foreign secretary to the levelling-up brief would traditionally be regarded as a demotion – but whose agenda both Boris Johnson and Starmer see as central to the next election.
“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.
The Labour leader carried out a ruthless overhaul of his team on Tuesday, including bringing back Yvette Cooper to the frontbench as shadow home secretary.
After an uneasy tussle over energy nationalisation, the former Labour leader Ed Miliband lost his responsibility for the business portfolio, which goes to Jonathan Reynolds. Instead, Miliband has a new role as shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero.
There were also promotions of key figures from the right of the party – including Bridget Phillipson and Wes Streeting, to education and health respectively.