The “politicised” appointment of “crony” Baroness Dido Harding to run England’s coronavirus test and trace service risks “denigrating” the NHS, a shadow cabinet minister has suggested.Steve Reed told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that hiring the Tory peer amounts to a “deskilling” of the civil service and is partly to blame for the problems plaguing NHS Test and Trace. The service is falling short of key targets, with just one in 10 Covid tests being processed within 24 hours last week, despite Boris Johnson wanting a 100% completion rate by the end of June.With the public complaining of huge delays in even booking a test, the total number of results processed decreased by 19% compared to the previous week. But despite being a Tory peer, Harding is not a minister and is not compelled to answer questions about the service in parliament.The system is also largely managed by outsourcing giant Serco and call centre company Sitel. Last week, the British Medical Association (BMA) told HuffPost UK that test and trace is “not an NHS service” but a “largely outsourced programme that sees numerous private companies given billions of pounds to run testing sites, process samples and manage contact tracing call centres”. Reed told HuffPost UK that the politicisation of the service was leading to failures, blaming the prime minister’s top adviser Dominic Cummings. “It’s part of a bigger story I think,” the shadow communities secretary said.“One of the great things about this country is we have a non-party political civil service but they are trying to politicise it.“So it’s extraordinarily unusual, well it’s unprecedented, that you would appoint a Conservative peer to a civil service job, and yet that’s what is happening.“We’ve all seen some of the leaked reports coming out of No.10 about Dominic Cummings, about his desire to politicise the civil service.“Well I think that’s really damaging.“Senior civil servants are appointed because of their expertise, not because they are cronies of whoever happens to be in 10 Downing Street at that particular moment.“And the more that we move towards a politicised model the more we are deskilling it and the more that will go wrong, and I think that’s what we’re seeing with Dido Harding.“But it’s not only Dido Harding now.” Asked if Labour could call for the acronym NHS to be stripped from the title of the test and trace service, Reed said: “I’m happy to pick you up on that one.“The brand of the NHS is one of the country’s greatest institutions, we can’t let it be denigrated.” Related... Has Rishi Sunak Done Too Little Too Late To Prevent The Unemployment Tsunami? Second Covid Test Centre 'Shut Down Overnight' To Make Way For Brexit Lorry Park NHS Test And Trace App Needs Seven Million Users To Be Effective
Keir Starmer has called for council chiefs and mayors in England to be urgently given new powers over both local lockdowns and NHS Test and Trace.Amid a growing revolt among local leaders at fresh restrictions imposed by the Tory government, the Labour leader told HuffPost UK that it was now time for them to be “put in the driver’s seat” in the battle against coronavirus.Starmer said that health secretary Matt Hancock should share decision making with council leaders and metro Mayors, offer cash packages for businesses locked down and end the confusing public health messages.In an exclusive interview, he also demanded a radical overhaul of NHS Test and Trace to prevent it from damaging the reputation of the NHS itself, with local public health teams leading the service rather than Tory peer Dido Harding or private firms like Serco and Deloitte.On Thursday, Hancock unveiled a new ban on different households mixing in pubs or homes in Liverpool City region, Warrington, Teesside and Hartlepool from Saturday.Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston said he would “defy the government and we do not accept these measures”, and he was backed up by Hartlepool council leader Shane Moore.Some 57 different areas of the UK, making up a third of the population, are now under tougher restrictions than the rest of the country.Starmer said: “The message to the government is: involve local local leaders, whether it’s council leaders or mayors, much more intensely, and much earlier. Because what’s going on is sometimes consultation, sometimes not.“There’s a massive frustration if you talk to the mayors in Manchester or Liverpool, they’ve not been properly brought into the process and listened to. The same in the northeast with the leader of Newcastle Council, a sense that the decision is being made centrally in London, when they should be in the room as part of the process.“And this isn’t just about another layer of bureaucracy, bringing someone else in. These are people who know their communities. And not only do they know their communities, they’re in very regular contact with the police, with the hospitals and their community groups, and they can put messages across their communities. So they need to be in the driver’s seat, much more central to the process.”He added: “The other part of this is that there’s a huge mismatch now between local restrictions and economic support. So instead of saying, here’s the package of restrictions, here’s the support that goes with it, the second bit isn’t there. Local leaders are a mess of tearing their hair out about what’s going to happen to jobs and businesses on their own patch.“It should be shared decision making. I don’t think local mayors and leaders should have a veto. I don’t think they should make decisions on their own. But they should be a proper part of the process.”On Thursday, NHS Test and Trace again posted worsening contact rates for those who have been close to people who tested positive for Covid.Just 64.3% of contacts were reached in cases handled either online or by private sector outsourced call centres. But the figure was 97.6% for cases handled by council-run local health protection teams.In one of his biggest breaks with government policy since he became leader, Starmer called for the first time for a complete overhaul of the system and that he agreed with Manchester metro Mayor Andy Burnham that it had to now be “locally led”.Labour wants the English system to resemble that in Wales, where the Welsh government meets with council chiefs, shares evidence on cases and positivity rates and where test and trace is not run as a “privatised enterprise”.“I completely understand the concerns that the NHS brand is being associated with test and trace when in fact, it’s been parcelled out, often with contracts to Serco and other companies,” Starmer said.“What the government should have done is to put it locally, months and months ago. Local authority leaders were saying to the government ’they should let us lead on test, trace and isolate.“‘We can do it, we can do it locally, we know our communities, and we’re up for the responsibility’. The government nearly went down that track and did start bringing them in a bit, but still insists on putting the big contracts elsewhere. Big mistake. Compare that with Germany, where they have done it from the local up and you’ve got a much better system.”Asked if that meant the end of a role for firms like Serco and Deloitte, Starmer said: “It should be locally led. I’m not going to say that you should be no involvement of others, but nobody could look at the test, trace and isolate arrangements and think that they’re working, let alone effective, let alone world class.“In a Zoom summit with Labour council chiefs, Starmer was later told by Burnham that the government had just a couple of weeks to give local leaders to put “contact tracing in hands of local authorities” or face a winter of rising ill-health and joblessness.Burnham said “local restrictions must have local support”, adding that “local control of test and trace” was essential. “This is a tough time for any government but to have made mistakes and keep on making them, that is arrogant,” he said.He pointed out that northern areas had been ignored when the “London-centric” decision was made to lift the national lockdown this summer.“We were in a different position and yet they lifted it. From our point of view we’ve never been in a position to keep cases low, they were too high and then we were already in a difficult position, then people were being encouraged to eat out to help out and god knows what.”Newcastle council leader Nick Forbes added that NHS Test and Trace, which this week announced it was replacing an NHS official with a former head of Sainsbury’s, was “privatised and centralised”.Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed agreed that the system now needed “to be local by default” because “the centralised Serco system hasn’t worked”.Welsh government health minister Vaughan Gething said that because its test and trace service was focused on the public sector, it was achieving a high level of contacts, with 91% of cases reached and 83% of their close contacts.Related... 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Rishi Sunak has been accused of “divide and rule” tactics after his own constituency was made a priority for the government’s levelling up fund.The district of Richmondshire is listed as a category one area which will be given preference by the government when it is deciding which areas to give cash from the £4.8bn fund. The district falls entirely within chancellor’s Richmond parliamentary seat.In a prospectus published alongside his Budget, Sunak said the fund was intended to support investment in places “where it can make the biggest difference to everyday life, including ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and coastal communities”.But Richmondshire, a mainly agricultural area which also attracts tourism as it covers a large part of the Yorkshire Dales, is one of the least deprived areas in England, ranking at 251 out of 317 on the government’s own index of deprivation.Treasury sources said Sunak had no sight of the specific areas that would be deemed high priority for the levelling up fund, although ministers were able to see a provisional map showing how the cash would be spread under the categories.Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis questioned why Richmondshire was prioritised over the city (93nd on the deprivation index) and nearby Barnsley (38th), which are both in category two.He accused the government of pursuing a “divide and rule” approach, highlighting that Sunak also used the budget to announce a new Treasury campus in Darlington, which neighbours his Richmond seat.Jarvis said: “A cursory glance at the government’s criteria for the levelling up fund is symbolic of their divide and rule approach. “The chancellor has identified his own Richmond seat as ‘category one’ and relocated his Treasury office to a neighbouring constituency, but has labelled places like Barnsley and Sheffield as ‘category two’ – pushing them to the back of the queue for economic support.“Ministers must change their approach, or they will put the country on course for a deeply divided recovery.”The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) placed areas into three categories according to their need for economic recovery and growth, for improved transport connectivity, and for regeneration.The controversy comes following concerns that the towns fund, also run by MHCLG, was targeted at key marginal seats the Tories wanted to win in the 2019 general election.Asked at a Downing Street press conference if he was using the levelling up fund for “naked pork barrel politics”, Sunak said: “The formula for the grant payments for the new fund to give them some capacity funding to bid for projects is based on an index of economic need, which is transparently published actually I think by MHCLG based on a bunch of objective measures.”He went on: “And remember, that’s only areas that have received some capacity funding to bid – no area is excluded for bidding it’s just that those areas on the basis of this formula might need a bit of extra help, so we’re giving those local areas some money to put their bid together to help them.”Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said: “Just months after the government was criticised for diverting funding away from towns that desperately needed it, we discover that cabinet ministers own constituencies now stand to benefit ahead of more deprived areas. “This government should be investing to rebuild the foundations of our economy, but they’re pulling the country further apart by pitting regions and nations against each other for crucial funding then diverting the money to serve their own party’s needs.”Related...Universal Credit £20 A Week Increase Extended For Six MonthsBudget 2021: Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal Will Shrink UK Economy By 4%, Watchdog SaysRishi Sunak's Budget Explained In Two Minutes
Keir Starmer has angrily rounded on “cowards” who brief against his staff and warned shadow ministers that they should quit if they’re unhappy with his leadership team.The Labour leader told the weekly meeting of Labour’s shadow cabinet that he was appalled by recent criticism of his aides, saying those responsible should “either stop now or have the guts to get out” of his frontbench team.In a rare flash of anger, Starmer said that if anyone wanted to criticise his leadership they should direct that at him rather than act like “cowards who attack my staff”.Most of his shadow ministers strongly welcomed Starmer’s words, although one insider said that there was “stony silence” from some on the Zoom call meeting.Among those who then spoke up to strongly support his approach were shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds.Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed and shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire stressed just how damaging such briefing was to the party particularly in an election period.Unnamed shadow ministers have in recent weeks criticised Starmer’s aides, including his chief of staff Morgan McSweeney, policy chief Claire Ainsley and political director Jenny Chapman, blaming them for Labour’s caution or its reliance on focus groups of former “Red Wall” voters.Starmer is also understood to be furious at recent briefings against frontbenchers Anneliese Dodds and Rachel Reeves.“We’ve got a vital set of elections next month and this stuff just shouldn’t be happening. It’s deeply disloyal,” one of those on the call told HuffPost UK.The May elections are Starmer’s first electoral test since he became leader a year ago, and he faces the added challenge of Labour defending its once safe seat of Hartlepool in a by-election.The Labour leader has campaigned on crime and policing, council tax hikes and the planned 1% nurses pay rise in the run-up to the May 6 polling day.Covid restrictions and the week-long pause to mark the passing of Prince Philip have derailed the party’s hopes to get reaching more voters directly.While Starmer has pointed out the party’s poll ratings have suffered from a “vaccine bounce” for Boris Johnson and the Tories, some MPs believe he needs to do more to set out his plans for a future Labour government.Related...Opinion: To Win Hartlepool Labour Must Focus On The Future, Not The PastA Year Of Keir: Will Starmer Pass The May Elections Test?A Year Of Keir: Can Starmer Inject More Passionate Politics Into His Leadership?
Boris Johnson must cancel his planned visit to India next week amid concerns over a growing number of cases of a new coronavirus variant that first emerged in the country.Public Health England (PHE) on Friday reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been found in England, as well as four cases in Scotland.The government is facing calls to place India on the travel “red list”, which would mean arrivals have to isolate in a quarantine hotel, as Covid-19 infections surge, with more than 200,000 new cases detected in the country in each of the last four days.But the prime minister plans to visit the country for trade talks with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Monday April 25.Johnson’s trip has already been shortened but Labour has now called on the PM to cancel the visit.Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed told Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “There are new variants emerging all around the world, the government is telling people: don’t travel if you don’t have to absolutely travel.Reed said: “I can’t see why the prime minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom, so many of us do that these days.“I think the prime minister, all of us in public life, need to set an example, and I’d much rather the prime minister did it by Zoom rather than travelling to India.”Asked by Ridge whether Johnson should still be planning to attend the trade visit, he responded: “I think he shouldn’t be.”Environment secretary George Eustice said the visit was “appropriate” and should go ahead.“Public health does come first but that doesn’t mean that there should be no visits at all for business purposes,” he told Ridge.“But absolutely measures will be taken to ensure that the visit is Covid-secure.”It came as PHE’s Susan Hopkins said there was not yet enough data to classify the new Indian strain as a “variant of concern” but that investigations were ongoing.“We have seen a couple of cases (of the Indian variant) that haven’t arisen from travel but we’re still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from,” she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.“To escalate it up the ranking we need to know that it is increased transmissibility, increased severity or vaccine evading, and we just don’t have that yet.”According to PHE, the variant “includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R”.PHE said that mutations of the 484 spike protein have been associated with the Manaus and South African variants.The E484K mutation is reported to result in weaker neutralisation by antibodies in lab experiments, but the E484Q mutation is different and still subject to investigation.Viruses by their nature mutate often, with more than 18,000 mutations discovered over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the overwhelming majority of which have no effect on the behaviour of the virus.Related...Fears Over India Covid Variant Found In UK - As Cases Of South Africa Strain RiseBoris Johnson Will Go To India Despite Soaring Covid Cases And New Variant FearsHere's Where We're At With Covid Booster Jabs For Autumn
"I'd much rather the prime minister did it by Zoom rather than traveling to India," said Labour's Steve Reed.
David Cameron’s lobbying of senior ministers and officials, who he knew as prime minister, on behalf of Greensill Capital was “acceptable”, a cabinet minister has claimed.Environment secretary George Eustice, Cameron’s former press secretary, said the ex-PM cannot be “begrudged” for taking on a role lobbying for the now-collapsed finance firm Greensill after leaving office.Eustice also claimed the current system for regulating how ministers declare private sector interests was “actually a pretty good one”.Labour said the minister’s comments showed “the government’s latest approach appears to be to shrug their shoulders and say ‘scandal? What scandal?’” The Tory minister’s defence of Cameron and the rules came after Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the Commons liaison committee which questions the prime minister, has also warned that a failure to be “more transparent” than previous governments could see the so-called “red wall” seats turn away from the Tories.A series of probes have been commissioned, including by Downing Street, as Westminster looks to understand the role Cameron played in securing Whitehall access for Greensill.The firm was selected as an intermediary lender for some government Covid-19 support loans at the start of the pandemic.The controversy follows disclosures that Cameron personally lobbied chancellor Rishi Sunak on Greensill’s behalf via text messages and was able to arrange for its founder and his former Downing Street adviser, Lex Greensill, to have a “private drink” with health secretary Matt Hancock.The saga deepened last week after it emerged the former head of government procurement, Bill Crothers, took a part-time position with the failed firm while still in his Whitehall post.The Sunday Times has now reported that Cameron contacted a former Cabinet Office contact who has since moved onto a senior NHS position to help secure a lucrative health deal, allowing Greensill to roll out its advance payment app, Earnd, to doctors and nurses.Greensill’s collapse now risks thousands of jobs, particularly in the steel sector.Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said the revelations surrounding Greensill were “shocking” and evidence that the “era of Tory sleaze is well and truly back”."The era of Tory sleaze is well and truly back."Labour's shadow communities secretary @SteveReedMP says there should be an 'open parliamentary investigation into what's been going on' following the Greensill lobbying row.#Ridge:— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) April 18, 2021The Labour frontbencher told Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “You’ve got a former prime minister (David Cameron) employed by a wealthy organisation who is then using his personal relationships with existing ministers, including the chancellor of the exchequer, persuading them to do favours, favours that would not have been open to other businesses or organisations.”But Cameron was defended by his former aide Eustice, who suggested that the former PM should have written more formal letters to the likes of Sunak rather than informal messaging.#Marr: On Greensill Capital, was David Cameron’s behaviour acceptable?Environment Secretary George Eustice: "The key thing is that he’s not broken any of the rules... it is acceptable"— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) April 18, 2021The environment secretary told Ridge: “I think the real point is. ‘has he done anything wrong?’ Well, on the face of it, no. There’s a review that is going on, we mustn’t prejudge that.”He then told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think the key thing is that he has not broken any of the rules.“It is acceptable, because it was within the rules.“The point I would make is that ministers, when they leave office, including prime ministers, aren’t allowed to take any such paid roles for two years – these are rules that David Cameron himself brought in.“He left office some five years ago and you can’t begrudge people moving on to another career.”Eustice conceded “tweaks” to the rules may be needed following No.10’s review, which is being led by City lawyer Nigel Boardman, and various parliamentary probes.“But fundamentally, I think the systems we have in place with ministers declaring interests with the ministerial code and the focus on that and how ministers conduct themselves in office is actually a pretty good one,” Eustice told Ridge.Responding to Eustice’s interviews, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said: “Less than a week since the government announced the Boardman review, ministers are openly admitting it has no powers whatsoever.Having failed to deflect the blame, the Government’s latest approach appears to be to shrug their shoulders and say ‘scandal? What scandal?’.“The public know that the cosy relationship between the Conservative government, commercial lobbyists and taxpayer money stinks of sleaze. It’s one rule for them, another for everybody else.“We don’t need the ‘tweaks’ Eustice said they might consider today, we need to tackle Tory sleaze with a full, independent, transparent inquiry – and we need stronger measures to put integrity and honour back into heart of government.” Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey dismissed Eustice’s claims, insisting that relying on the ministerial code leaves the prime minister as “judge and jury” in deciding if a minister has breached ethics standards.“I’m very worried that the ministerial code isn’t properly enforced,” Davey said.“We’ve seen (Sir) Alex Allan, the independent adviser for ministerial standards, resign and [a replacement has not been appointed].“I’d like to see an independent body enforcing the ministerial code, not the prime minister – that’s wrong.“It’s wrong that a politician should be the judge and jury of who decides who has broken the ministerial code, and what I would like to see is an independent body, just like we have IPSA over MPs pay and expenses, that could say: ‘this minister has broken the code’ and whether they can’t have their ministerial pay.“That would be the sort of penalty that I think the public would like and would rebuild trust in British politics.”Related...Voters Must Know Ministers’ Financial Affairs Before May Elections, Labour SaysRishi Sunak's Role In Greensill Lobbying Scandal To Be Probed By MPsDavid Cameron Lobbying Review Being Led By 'Good Friend' Of Tory Government, Says LabourGreensill Scandal: Whitehall Chief Under David Cameron Took Job With Finance FirmTexts Confirm David Cameron Lobbied Rishi Sunak To Help Save Greensill CapitalBoris Johnson Must Cancel India Trip Amid Covid Variant Concerns, Labour Says
Claims Boris Johnson tried to protect a friend of his fiancee by stopping a leak inquiry into plans to impose the second lockdown have been dismissed as “tittle tattle”.Labour is calling for a senior minister to face questions in parliament over the growing war of words between the prime minister and his former adviser Dominic Cummings.In an explosive blog post published on Friday, Cummings alleged Johnson intervened after he was warned the inquiry could implicate Henry Newman, a friend of Carrie Symonds.“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” Cummings said.Cummings also accused his former boss of plotting an “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” plan to get Tory donors to secretly fund a lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, international trade secretary Liz Truss tried to downplay the significance of the war of words.“This is tittle tattle that is being promoted and I don’t think it really addresses the key issues that people in Britain care about,” she told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.“These noises off are simply not helpful, they are not contributing to a positive future and they don’t reflect what is actually going on in Downing Street.”The inquiry into the “chatty rat” leak, as it is known in Westminster, of plans for a second lockdown in England is still ongoing.Truss also said Johnson paid for the refurbishment of his official flat out of his own pocket, but was unable to say where he got the money.“I have been assured that the rules have been fully complied with and I know that he has met the costs of the flat refurbishment,” she said.The government has previously said Johnson paid for the revamp – reported to have cost £200,000 – out of his own pocket.But Labour said that Johnson must to explain how he obtained the money in the first place to pay for the work overseen by Symonds.Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said the government must publish any correspondence relating to payments or donations around the refurbishment.“We need to know the full amount that was spent and we need to know who paid for the work in the first place, who the Prime Minister now proposes to reimburse,” the Labour MP told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.Cummings’ attack on Johnson came after No 10 sources briefed newspapers the former aide was the source of a number of damaging leaks – including text messages exchanged between the prime minister and the entrepreneur James Dyson over tax matters.On Friday, the Johnson denied trying to block the leak inquiry, saying the public could not “give a monkey’s” about such matters.But a new Opinium survey released on Saturday revealed almost 37% of Britons described Mr Johnson as mostly or completely corrupt, compared with just 16% for Labour leader Keir Starmer.Related...Can Boris Johnson Escape Dominic Cummings?Does Rishi Sunak Want To Save The Planet?
As the results came in, the pattern was clear and, for Labour activists, painfully familiar. Keir Starmer, the man elected to stop the bleed in the party’s so-called red wall, was instead presiding over yet more red ruin. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives had not only captured the totemic Westminster seat of Hartlepool – a Labour constituency since its inception – but a slew of English council seats from County Durham to Dudley were turning from red to blue.Despite a scramble to manage expectations by Labour HQ, there could be no glossing over the fact these were terrible results, with Starmer rejected by much of its previous working-class base. Starmer did not quell speculation he will embark on a reshuffle in response to the drubbing, telling reporters on Friday his party has “lost the trust of working people” and he will do “whatever it takes” to restore it. So, who might he look to in order to shake things up? Here are some of the options. On The Way Up Wes Streeting Viewed as a rising star hungry to do battle with the Tory benches, the shadow schools minister grew up in a council flat in Stepney and went on to study at Cambridge. A moderate and vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Streeting has become a close ally of Starmer’s in recent months, repeatedly taking to the airwaves to defend the party’s new direction.As the country recovers from coronavirus, Labour may see the Tories as vulnerable on social mobility and the widening opportunity gap between rich and poor. It is for this reason, many tip Streeting to take the education brief from Kate Green, who some feel has failed to land blows on Gavin Williamson despite the A-Levels fiasco and a series of cuts.  “Wes would be Gavin Williamson’s worst nightmare,” said one Labour source. It is also possible, however, that Streeting’s confident media performances could be placed in a more strategic role, such as shadowing Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office role.  His previous support for the People’s Vote campaign could hamper his chances, however, with Starmer keen to draw a line under Brexit. Rachel Reeves Widely tipped to replace Annaliese Dodds as shadow chancellor, Leeds West MP Reeves is one of the few shadow ministers with previous frontbench experience. Seen as on the right of the party, Reeves served in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet and is seen as having won trust and respect among those the left by leading the campaign against “Tory sleaze”.  Though still controversial with some in her party because of past comments on benefits, her frequent media appearances are testament to Starmer’s faith in her abilities. A former economist for the Bank of England and British Embassy in Washington, Reeves is not thought to have any competition if Starmer is searching for a new face to take on Rishi Sunak at the despatch box. Jess Phillips  One of Starmer’s most high-profile frontbenchers, the shadow domestic violence minister led party calls for action after Sarah Everard’s murder. The Birmingham Yardley MP has a forthright style and, though Starmer may view her as something of a loose cannon, he is said to highly prize her work campaigning on homelessness, domestic killings and violence against women. Phillips, who was the moderates’ candidate for leadership when Corbyn stepped down, is also a strong communicator, both online and on broadcast, and comfortable with the “red wall” voters Starmer fears the party has lost touch with. The 39-year-old has previously voiced an ambition to be home secretary, which is a brief Starmer may consider for her, but possible alternatives may be shadow equalities secretary. She may also be considered for the role of shadow employment rights secretary should Starmer wish to move Corbyn ally Andy McDonald.On the way out? Anneliese DoddsStarmer’s choice for shadow chancellor, the most important appointment for any leader, has attracted regular criticism. Her allies point out her difficult task in facing Rishi Sunak while the occupant of Number 11 has handed out huge sums of cash via the furlough scheme and other Covid support. But many feel Dodds has failed to nail her opponent when he was weak on free school meals cuts, the Eat Out To Help Out debacle and the Greensill Capital scandal. Prevaricating over whether Labour would back a wealth tax and hiring a former advisor of John McDonnell’s also fanned concerns about whether she was suitable. Demoting his own pick for such a crucial job would inevitably invite criticism of Starmer’s judgement, however, and Dodds is well-liked and viewed as knowledgeable among MPs. But, equally, if Starmer refused to consider a move, he may face the charge of tinkering around the edges. Jonathan AshworthThe shadow health secretary has been in post since 2016 and was appointed by Corbyn, despite not sharing the former leader’s left-wing outlook. Sources have suggested Starmer is keen for a reset on health policy, especially as the NHS is traditionally Labour’s strongest campaign issue and Johnson’s approach to social care may soon be a key dividing line. Others have underlined that sacking Ashworth, whose current knowledge of the brief is likely to be unrivalled, during the pandemic would be a misstep. Questions over whether Ashworth has briefed against Starmer and his staff to journalists have been swirling, however. “He is acting like he has already lost his job,” said one source. Liz Kendall, Justin Madders, Rosena Allin-Khan and Lucy Powell are among the names touted as his replacement. Emily ThornberryRelations between the shadow trade secretary and Starmer are thought to have been rocky in recent months. Starmer demoted his leadership rival from her role as shadow foreign secretary last year and there are suggestions he could go further. Despite her combative scrutiny of Liz Truss, Thornberry has been increasingly sidelined in recent months, rarely, if ever, appearing on the media. Her previous comments about the St George’s flag are also seen by Starmer’s allies as undermining the party’s attempts to appear more patriotic. It is possible she is offered an alternative role as shadow leader of the Commons, should long-serving Valerie Vaz wish to move on, but it’s not clear Thornberry would accept. Starmer might consider bringing in a well-known “big beast” as her replacement, such as former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. What else could Starmer do?Starmer will be desperate to show working class voters he is listening and may look to boost the role of Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy. Her policy work on reviving the party’s offer to towns is highly rated and sources say he is keen for her to be seen on broadcast media more often. A sideways move to the Home Office role, replacing Nick Thomas-Symonds, to shadow Priti Patel may be on the cards. It would see Nandy front and centre of efforts to make the party credible on issues like crime and immigration, something vital to securing support in the red wall. Deputy leader Angela Rayner’s role as elections chief has also been questioned, with some saying she lacks experience of marginal battles. Others lay the blame for defeats at the door of former Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, Starmer’s campaign chief, though the leader is said to remain loyal to her.Ian Murray, who is helping Anas Sarwar to lead a resurgence in Scotland, and Chris Bryant, whose local party has ousted Plaid Cymru’s former leader Leanne Wood in the Rhondda in the Welsh assembly elections, are said to have strong cases for expanded attacking roles. Should Rachel Reeve’s potential elevation to shadow chancellor create a vacancy as shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Starmer will need a strategic brain. He may choose one of his key allies, such as Steve Reed or Bridget Phillipson, to battle Michael Gove. Rayner may also be approached. It is a high-profile spot that entails building on the success Reeves has had scrutinising Johnson’s rule-breaking in the wake of the cash for curtains scandal and questions over PPE contracts. It is not clear whether Marsha de Cordova’s position as shadow equalities minister is safe, despite fears about the optics of removing a black, disabled woman from his top team.Others in line for promotion include Sarah Jones, who is currently shadow policing minister, and Chi Onwurah, who has long been tipped for shadow business secretary. It is unlikely, however, that Ed Miliband will relinquish his climate change responsibilities ahead of the COP 26 conference.Alison McGovern, shadow sports minister and Wirral MP, and Alex Norris may be asked to step up if Starmer’s reshuffle is wide-ranging. Related...Labour Councillor Filmed ‘Pilfering’ Tory Election Leaflet From LetterboxHere’s What’s At Stake In The ‘Super Thursday’ ElectionsUnite Urged to Stop Being Starmer's 'Backseat Driver' By Union Leadership Contender
Keir Starmer was reshuffling his shadow cabinet on Sunday as the fallout from Labour’s dismal election results continued.Starmer has already removed deputy leader Angela Rayner as party chair and campaigns coordinator, after Labour lost control of a host of councils and the “red wall” parliamentary seat of Hartlepool for the first time since its inception in the 1970s.The Labour leader has faced a backlash from senior figures for apparently sacking Rayner.Allies insist she has been offered another job in the shadow cabinet but they could not say what it would be, with Starmer in the process of reshuffling his top team on Sunday.Reports suggest shadow communities secretary Steve Reed could be in line to replace Rayner. Ian Murray, the shadow secretary for Scotland, and MP Chris Bryant have also been tipped for promotion. Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds is meanwhile among those reported to be in line for a demotion. There has also been criticism from some sections of the party of Starmer’s key aide Jenny Chapman, the former MP for Darlington.Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Murray insisted Rayner had not been sacked and that Starmer wants to move her to a “much more prominent role” so Labour can benefit from her “authentic voice”.But after headlines that Rayner had been sacked sparked outrage from some in the party, Murray admitted: “Communications over the last 24 hours have not been top-quality.” Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who has signalled he is ready to take over from Starmer if asked, said of Rayner’s sacking: “I can’t support this.“This is straightforwardly wrong if it’s true.”Members of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s team, who come from the left of the party, were among those to criticise the move to “scapegoat” the deputy leader.Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called it “baffling” while John McDonnell labelled it a “huge mistake”.McDonnell, a former shadow chancellor, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “When the leader of the party on Friday said he takes responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool in particular and then scapegoats Angela Rayner, I think many of us feel that is unfair, particularly as we all know actually that Keir’s style of leadership is that his office controls everything.“It is very centralised and he controlled the campaign.”In a further sign of the splits in the party, Labour grandee Lord Peter Mandelson urged Starmer to dilute the influence of party members and “hard left factions” linked to train unions.He said Starmer was set to embark on a “serious review” of Labour policy.“I also believe that he needs to to look at how the party is organised, how it represents the genuine grassroots of the party and reflects the genuine views and values of Labour voters across the country in all the nations and the regions of the country,” Mandelson told Times Radio“The idea that the Labour Party and its policies and its outlook can be driven disproportionately frankly by a mixture of grassroots members in London and the south-east and the sort of hard left factions that are attached to trade unions - that has got to go, we have got to change.“Party reform therefore I think is an essential part of what Keir has got to take on next.”As well as undertaking a reshuffle, Starmer has hired Gordon Brown’s former chief pollster Deborah Mattinson – who has written a book about why Labour lost the so-called “red wall” at the 2019 general election – as director of strategy.Related...Angela Rayner Sacked As Party Chair And Campaigns Chief By Keir StarmerSadiq Khan Re-Elected As London Mayor Despite Late Tory SurgeNicola Sturgeon Hails 'Emphatic' Victory For SNP In Holyrood Elections