Wes Streeting bats off Labour leadership queries

‘Ruthless’ reshuffle shows Labour is ready to govern, says Streeting amid ‘band of Blairites’ criticism

Sir Keir Starmer has been praised for “ruthlessly” remaking the Labour Party after its defeat in 2019.

It comes following a shadow cabinet reshuffle yesterday which saw figures considered on the party’s right win promotions seemingly at the expense of the party’s “soft left” elements. 

Speaking to Sophy Ridge’s new programme on Sky News, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the re-organisation showed Sir Keir was focused on building a team that was “ready to govern”.

“We want to make sure that across the board we’ve got the right people in the right places,” he said.

The reshuffle saw those on the more Blairite wing of the party, such as Liz Kendall, Pat McFadden and Shabana Mahmood rewarded with promotions.

Conversely, figures like Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Ashworth saw demotions from the posts of shadow levelling up secretary and shadow secretary of state for work and pensions respectively. 

Nandy made way for deputy leader Angela Rayner, who was also handed the title of shadow deputy prime minister. 

You can find the full list of movers on politics.co.uk’s dedicated page here. 

The removal of some of names associated with the party’s “soft left” has led grassroots left-wing group Momentum to accuse Starmer of promoting a “narrow band of Blairites unwilling to offer the decisive change the country is crying out for”.

Neal Lawson, director of cross-party campaigns group Compass, said: “This shadow cabinet reshuffle represents a shift to the Right and a narrowing of the diversity of views at the top of the Labour Party.

“This is the exact opposite of the feedback, challenge and creativity that successful modern politics demands”.

Streeting told Sky News: “I think it’s a good thing that Keir has ruthlessly and single-mindedly gone through all those things that led to voters rejecting Labour at the last election and eliminated every single one of them and built a foundation from which Labour can win a general election.”

Speaking after he conducted the reshuffle, Sir Keir said reforms to his frontbench meant he was “now in position to put our top team on the table, to show it to the country”.

“I think what is important is to recognise that with this reshuffle, we now have the strongest possible players on the pitch for what is going to be a crucial part of the journey,” he told reporters in Westminster.

He said Ms Rayner’s job switch had been about putting her in a role that is “crucial to the rebuilding of our country”.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, whose demotion yesterday saw him pick up the role of shadow paymaster general, has embraced his role as the attack dog “minister for the Today programme”. 

Asked how he felt about the change, told Sky News: “I like to think of myself as the Labour minister for Kay Burley!”.

The Labour MP said the role is “preparing Labour for government”.

He added: “I’m in a role in the Cabinet Office preparing us for government, and looking at ensuring the next Labour government can get on with its priorities and grow our economy, fix the NHS, fix schools – and I’ll be coming around talking about the case for change.”

Asked exactly what Labour will do, Ashworth said: “We’re going to recruit more doctors and nurses, we’re going to deal with crime on our streets, we’re going to grow our economy.”