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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has appointed his deputy Angela Rayner shadow levelling-up secretary, in a big reshuffle that has promoted several MPs on the right of the main UK opposition party as it gears up for the general election expected next year.
Labour said on Monday that Starmer was “delighted” that Rayner had accepted the role, which also hands her responsibility for housing and communities, alongside remaining strategic lead on the party’s new deal for working people.
Rayner’s other title has also been changed from shadow first secretary of state to shadow deputy prime minister, in Starmer’s first reshuffle since November 2021.
Labour has a roughly 18-point polling lead over UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s ruling Conservative party ahead of the election, which has to take place by January 2025.
Starmer is hoping to become the first Labour leader to win a general election since Sir Tony Blair in 2005.
The reshuffle also saw promotions for several senior “Blairite” figures, with Liz Kendall appointed to Starmer’s top team for the first time as shadow work and pensions secretary.
Pat McFadden has taken over Rayner’s previous role as shadow Cabinet Office secretary, responsible for machinery of government issues. He will also become the new “national campaign co-ordinator” ahead of the election.
Meanwhile, Peter Kyle, who was previously shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has been promoted to shadow secretary of state for science, innovation and technology.
Darren Jones, another moderniser, has become a shadow minister for the first time as shadow chief secretary of the Treasury. Jones was previously chair of the House of Commons business select committee.
The promotions are the latest demonstration of how Starmer, who took over in 2020 from “hard left” former leader Jeremy Corbyn, is seeking to take Labour down the more centrist route pursued by Blair.
Elsewhere, Shabana Mahmood, a key Starmer loyalist, has been appointed shadow justice secretary, replacing Steve Reed, who becomes shadow environment secretary.
One Labour official said the promotion was in recognition of Mahmood’s role in “helping transform the Labour party and its campaign machine” as former campaign co-ordinator.
At the same time, Starmer’s rejig has demoted several figures on the soft left of the party.
Lisa Nandy, who stood for the leadership in 2020, has been replaced by Rayner as shadow levelling-up secretary and becomes shadow cabinet minister for international development, succeeding Preet Gill.
Jim McMahon, who was shadow environment secretary, earlier resigned, saying he wanted to focus on his family and health after recovering from a serious illness.
In a letter to Starmer, McMahon said he remained supportive of the Labour leader, although he added: “In the run-up to the next general election it is vital that Labour sets out its vision to offer working people hope, security and a decent standard of living.”
Elsewhere Jonathan Ashworth, who was work and pensions spokesperson, has been demoted to shadow paymaster general.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, former shadow trade secretary, has been demoted to shadow minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.
Thangam Debbonaire moves from shadow leader of the Commons to shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport — in effect a job swap with Lucy Powell, who moves from culture to shadow Commons leader.
Hilary Benn, meanwhile, has entered the shadow cabinet as shadow Northern Ireland secretary.
The headline on this story has been updated to correct Angela Rayner’s role