Has Labor finally found a winning formula with Starmer’s new team?

Kate Proctor

6 minute read

Six weeks after Keir Starmer’s ‘moderates and media artists’ shadow cabinet reshuffle replaced loyalists with better-known faces, has the Labor leader finally found a winning formula?

Labor are in the best position for a decade, with the party opening a 10-point lead over the Tories as the government sinks deeper into the Downing Street party scandal during lockdown this week. The survey for The Times by YouGov also found that 35% of people thought Starmer would make the best prime minister, compared to 23% for Johnson.

November’s shadow cabinet appointments appear to have played a key role in helping Starmer emerge as a credible alternative.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has become highly visible in the media, recently winning plaudits for his nuanced take on the trans debate on Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast, as well as powerful appearances in the Commons.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper was seen as a serious appointment, while new shadow Education Secretary Bridget Philipson was given a boost on the return of schools. Experienced media interpreter and the only front MP from the Corbyn era, Emily Thornberry, was candid about Johnson’s breaking of the rules in her new role as attorney general.

A source close to Starmer told PoliticsHome the leader got what he wanted from the reshuffle and felt in control of the party and its leadership.

“It’s evident in our targeted messaging, the situations we’ve locked the government into, and our positive coverage in the newspapers that we haven’t worked with properly for years,” they said.

“We are making progress to show the public that we are a serious government in waiting.”

Another Labor source said it was a deliberate move by Keir to put ‘the best performers in the party in the top positions’.

“He has set clear goals for them on what they need to do between now and the election and what his priorities are,” they continued.

“No one is satisfied that the Number 10 scandals will simply give us victory in the next election.”Longtime members of Starmer’s top team also seem to be making a positive impact lately.

On Sunday, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves outlined a clear policy on energy bills to cut VAT and introduce a windfall tax on large, profit-making businesses, while the government’s lack of a concrete plan so far will remain a thorn in their side long after the dust settled on partygate.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner deftly stood in for Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions when he was forced into Covid isolation, dealing blows to a Johnson seemingly reeling from the skyrocketing cost of living, and ran this week as Labor’s main spokesman on the Downing Street party scandal, proposing relevant takedowns in the UK and international media.

‘The Queen sat alone in mourning as many did at the time with personal trauma and sacrifice to uphold the rules in the national interest,’ Rayner tweeted after the bombshell revelation that parties had taken place. held in Downing Street on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. “I have no words for the culture and behaviors at number 10 and the buck stops at the PM.”

The party’s executive director of communications, Matthew Doyle, who worked for Tony Blair, has now been in the job for six months and there has already been clear footfall from the big media brands that traditionally support the Tories. The Daily Express recently ran a front page on the cost of living cut that is hitting the over-65s the hardest according to Labor research.

A shadow minister said he thought Starmer’s new team looked “a lot hungrier” and now had stronger and better attacking lines.

Although they admitted that some shadow ministers needed to ‘mature’ in their roles and avoid ‘getting it wrong because they think they always need to say something’, they still felt positive about About Starmer’s front bench. “There is no doubt that they are a better top team,” they added. The radical change has not gone unnoticed by the government either. A Tory MP noted that there was strong public recognition of some of the names Starmer had around him.

With the cost of living set to soar this year, not helped by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to increase National Insurance from April, they noted the Tories face “a very different world ” in the face of Labor and “our party knows it”.

When asked which people rock the Tories the most, he simply replied, “Rachel”, which means Shadow Chancellor, Reeves.

But another Tory source said while it’s clear Starmer has a few ‘sharper eggs’ on the front bench meaning ministers are under more scrutiny, they didn’t think it would reduce much outside of Parliament.

“I feel like that front bench [is still] dominated by the Starmer-Rayner battle, and she’s a huge chalk and cheese character,” they explained.

“If you asked any public to name their team before, I doubt they could name four. Any fall from us would not be because of their skill, but because of number 10’s incompetence. . »

On the left of Labour, however, there was a sense of disappointment with Starmer’s reshuffle.

“The political dimension of the shadow cabinet does not reflect the party more broadly,” said one MP.

“But that doesn’t matter as much because the Tory scandals have been so horrific that there’s more agreement than disagreement.”

They thought Starmer was in danger of being overshadowed by bigger personalities.

“While I don’t agree with everything they said, Wes and Angela seem stronger and so they definitely eclipse Starmer.”

A peer said they still find Starmer bland. “He needs a new ‘costume’,” they said, and suggested that beyond his looks, he could inject some personality into the party with an innovative peer nomination.

“Actors, musicians, business figures, well-known names who are Labour supporters,” they offered. “He can make appointments and should.”

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