Sensible Starmer’s Cabinet for Change

Ella Rose, Associate Director

When Sir Keir Starmer won the Labour Party leadership election in 2020, the first thing he did was apologise to the Jewish community. He set about turning around the Party which had been found guilty of direct and indirect discrimination of the Jewish people within it by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission whose founding had been the last Act passed by the last Labour government. He did so quietly, ruthlessly, and more efficiently than any of those involved in the EHRC case could have expected. The early years of Starmer’s leadership saw rule changes on Party conference floor, suspending the whip from the former Leader and the start of a wholesale culture change. 

Four years later, and the value of the transformation has been shown with a thumping majority and unified party. Starmer’s new Cabinet and Ministerial appointments this week show that he means business, will do what he thinks is right, and values common sense above all else. His appointments,  particularly in the Lords, have been packed with experts  who have spent decades honing their craft. With a broken prison system, James Timpson, a vocal supporter of prison reform is a bold choice, and the experience of Jacqui Smith and Richard Hermer will be welcomed. 

Much has been made of the appointment of the five new MPs. Whilst a break from tradition, all can be understood by their merits. Miatta Fahnbulleh, an economist, now works in the Department of her former boss Ed Miliband. Sarah Sackman is a distinguished lawyer and close ally of Sir Keir Starmer. Likewise, Georgia Gould, the former leader of Camden Council and Chair of London Councils is well known locally as an impressive politician, also close to the now Prime Minister. Kirsty McNeill, a charity leader and former adviser to Gordon Brown when he was PM, becomes a Junior Minister in the Scotland Office, and former Royal Marine Colonel Alistair Carns goes straight in as Minister for Veterans. The first four all have deep experience of the political system and perhaps will have found their feet as MPs quicker than some of their cohort who didn’t quite expect to be elected. 

Word on the street is that it is highly unlikely for us to see a reshuffle within the next couple of years. Chief of Staff Sue Gray wants to see Ministers bed in and avoid the ministerial chaos of the past few years. At a time when criticism of both the ministerial ranks and the civil service is that appointments are cycled through too quickly, this is a welcome change, and suggests why those five appointments of new MPs were made now, rather than in six months time. 

Many journalists are speculating that because Starmer came to politics late he doesn’t necessarily have a Labour tribe. That may have been true in the past, but he is certainly building a government in his image – disciplined, focused and ready to do the hard work. With selections for Parliamentary candidates having been controlled from the centre, and left-wingers such as Faiza Shaheen being removed from the Labour ballot close to polling day, this is certainly an expanded PLP, built in the strong tradition of Labour service. 

There’s also something to be said about Labour tribes post Corbyn. In previous generations of the Labour Party, Labour First and Progressive Britain, two of the moderate organising factions, would have stood candidates against each other in internal elections. Since Corbyn’s leadership, they’ve been working closely together under the Labour to Win banner, fielding joint slates, and supporting similar candidates. Perhaps Corbyn’s legacy is not the rise of the left, but the uniting of the right of the Labour Party, working together under Keir Starmer’s leadership to create his decade of national renewal. It’s one, big, for now, cohesive tribe. 

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