Home Affairs Committee to get new chair after Labour reshuffles top team

Yvette Cooper named shadow home secretary in overhaul of Keir Starmer's top team
Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By PoliticsHome staff

30 Nov 2021

Former minister Yvette Cooper will step down as chair of parliament's Home Affairs Committee after making a comeback to Labour's frontbench as shadow home secretary in a significant reshuffle of Keir Starmer's top team.

The Blair-era former minister has served as chair of the select committee since 2016 after losing out on the leadership of the party to Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. She previously served as shadow home secretary for four years between 2011 and 2015.

A committee spokesperson confirmed that another HASC member would stand in for Cooper until a successor is elected.

Cooper's return to the Labour frontbench will be seen as another sharp departure from the Corbyn years under Starmer, with critics on the left likely to describe this appointment as a shift to the right. 

The reshuffle got off to a fractious start on Monday morning when it began in the middle of a speech being given by deputy leader Angela Rayner, who said she did not know the details of it, nor had she been consulted.

Rayner's position as shadow first secretary of state, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow secretary of state for the future of work remained unchanged in the final reshuffle confirmed on Monday night. Because her position as deputy leader is elected, that cannot be changed by Starmer. 

Other updates to the shadow cabinet include Lisa Nandy, who moves from shadow foreign secretary to shadow levelling up secretary, which means she shadows government heavyweight Michael Gove.

David Lammy moves from shadow justice secretary to shadow foreign secretary.

Louise Haigh, will move from shadow Northern Ireland secretray to shadow transport seretary, and Jonathan Ashworth will leave his long-held position as shadow health secretary to take on the work and pensions brief.

Steve Reed moves from shadow communities to justice. Jim McMahon, who was shadow secretary of state for transport, becomes shadow environment secretary. 

There are promotions for Wes Streeting from a shadow minister for child poverty to shadow health secretary, and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson, who will take over at education. 

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband – who stood in for Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions just weeks ago when he had to isolate due to Covid-19 – now focuses solely on climate change having been removed as shadow business secretary. Jonathan Reynolds now takes on that job.

“I’m particularly delighted that Lisa Nandy will take on the vital role of shadowing Michael Gove and leading on the levelling up agenda," Starmer said. 

"After 11 years of Conservative mismanagement of our economy, delivering prosperity to all regions and nations in the UK will be a defining mission of the next Labour government, and there will be nobody better than Lisa to lead this work.

“Climate change is the most important issue facing this country over the next decade. Ed Miliband will lead in the shadow cabinet to develop Labour’s extensive plans for net zero in a first term Labour Government, and hold the government to account for its failure to take action."

One of the first moves of the day was Nick Thomas-Symonds, who was moved to shadow trad secretary to focus on Labour's "Make Brexit Work" policy. Emily Thornberry, who has been doing that job since 2020, becomes shadow attorney general. 

As shadow home secretary for the last 18 months, Thomas-Symonds has challenged the government on a number of significant issues, including most recently the soaring numbers of small boats crossing the Channel.

He has repeatedly accused Patel of losing control of the crisis and said he wants to see more safe and legal crossings.

The former lawyer and academic was a close ally of Starmer when he first became leader in 2020, but one party source said Thomas-Symonds had failed to have significant "cut through" with the public. 

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens has been moved to shadow secretary of state for Wales, replacing Nia Griffiths MP, who has held the position since 2020.

Griffiths, Kate Green who was shadow education secretary, and former shadow attorney general Lord Charlie Falconer, are all understood to be moving from their positions in Starmer's cabinet.

Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, was the first to quit this morning as shadow secretary of state for young people and democracy – a job she has held since 2016. 

After a call with Starmer this morning, Smith published a letter to the Labour leader saying she was resigning to spend more time on the backbenches, despite receiving a job offer from Starmer. 

Smith expressed concerns about former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn not being readmitted to the Parliamentary Labour Party, a position she described as "utterly unsustainable", and said it had led to some people not campaigning for the party. 

In what was a chaotic start to the resuffle, Starmer's team fired the starting gun this morning mid-way during a speech by shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Angela Rayner, who was setting out the party's plans for improved standards in public life. 

A version of this story first appeared on CSW's sister title PoliticsHome

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