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Lisa Nandy fails to take Starmer’s reshuffle hint

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Swallowing her pride, Lisa Nandy has accepted her demotion in Keir Starmer’s reshuffle rather than spitting out her dummy – and the switch is bitter-sweet. The word in the Labour Party is that Starmer’s praetorian Blairites gambled that a Wigan warrior accused of serial disloyalty would walk rather than be levelled down to international development. Tooting medic Rosena Allin-Khan took the bait, quitting to spend more time in A&E after her mental health portfolio was removed from the shadow cabinet – following one too many clashes with Wes Streeting. Nandy gluing herself to the front bench wrong-footed the Blairite ultras.

Starmer’s cabinet problems will worsen, whispered a snout, if he bends to ferocious lobbying by business to dilute Labour’s attractive workplace offer. Shadow deputy PM Angela Rayner remains incredibly protective of her plan for workers’ rights.

[See also: Labour minister gets an apology over “no money” note – 13 years late]

Rishi Sunak putting sweary Gillian Keegan on the naughty step reflects the battered PM’s hardening view that few of his ministers are any good. It’s an opinion widely shared by the British electorate, judging by the opinion polls. Hence promotions for lapdog Grant Shapps and loyal pupil Claire Coutinho, under orders to cause no trouble. One former cabinet member overlooked by Sunak said he feels relieved he does not share collective responsibility for the government’s actions. It’s his best hope of surviving in a 10,000-majority Blue Wall seat, he reckons.

Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It is a docudrama next to the farcical reality of a crumbling Conservative government, yet the show has inspired a No 10 salvage operation. Keeping up spirits by blaming current woes on last year’s 49 days of Liz, some of Sunak’s aides have labelled the wave of recent catastrophes a “Trussterf**k”.

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Cabinet ministers gripe that Jeremy Hunt’s letter inviting bids for the Autumn Statement stipulated that all requests must be to spend other people’s money (eg pension funds), as the Chancellor is saving his for election bribes in 2024. “What’s yours is mine” is an ideological approach the Tories have traditionally pinned on Labour.

Chess champion Rachel Reeves thinks several moves ahead, ruling out wealth taxes in the Telegraph before appearing at a Financial Times conference disrupted by youthful Green New Deal Rising activists demanding the rich pay their fair whack. Reeves and the FT’s Robert Shrimsley were so unruffled it was as if they had anticipated the demo. One of the protesters was named by the campaign group as Venice van Someren – the kind of name more likely to be found on an FT byline than interrupting proceedings.

[See also: Nadine Dorries’ “Plot” to hijack the Tory party conference]

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This article appears in the 06 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Crumbling Britain