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  2. Labour
9 October 2023

Lisa Nandy puts a positive spin on demotion

“I’ve gone from levelling up the country to levelling up the world,” the shadow cabinet minister told a fringe meeting.

By Rachel Cunliffe

It seems nothing can puncture the aura of message discipline at the Labour Party conference this year – not even a recent demotion.

Last month Keir Starmer reshuffled his team and handed his deputy leader, Angela Rayner, the role of shadow levelling up secretary, moving the incumbent Lisa Nandy into the role of shadow cabinet minister for international development – even though the department hasn’t existed since its 2020 merger with the Foreign Office. For Nandy, who was accused of having briefed against Starmer, it was a clear snub (only two years ago she was shadow foreign secretary).

But if Nandy resents being sidelined, she isn’t showing it. Tasked today with filling in at a Labour Together event after the scheduled speaker, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, was called back to London, Nandy displayed nothing but enthusiasm for her new job. After a stirring speech condemning Hamas for its attack on Israel and reiterating Labour’s support for the Israeli people, she talked passionately about the need for Britain to take a leading role on international development, using the aid budget as effectively as possible, and focusing particularly on relieving the suffering of women and girls.

After just weeks in the job, she appeared utterly in command of her new brief – and even found numerous ways to get the conversation with Lucy Fisher, Whitehall editor of the Financial Times, back to the headline topic of the day: Rachel Reeves’s mission to rebuild the economy (which, Nandy pointed out, would automatically increase the international development budget).

Nandy did not comment directly on the reshuffle, but she did tell the packed room: “In many ways, this is my dream job. I’ve gone from levelling up the country to levelling up the world.”

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That’s very much a glass-half-full attitude to what was described at the time as a “humiliating” demotion, with Starmer’s team reported to have assumed Nandy would reject their offer. Perhaps the shadow minister, who worked for ten years helping child refugees before entering parliament, doesn’t care about her job title as long as she feels she is making a difference to causes that matter to her. Or perhaps she is hoping to impress Starmer with her loyalty and win a full secretary of state role. Maybe a bit of both?

[See also: Inside the Angela Rayner show]

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