What do the highest profile casualties of Keir Starmer’s first reshuffle have in common? The answer isn’t that they are Corbynites, as has been widely written. Ian Lavery, Richard Burgon and Jon Trickett really have only one thing in common with Barry Gardiner: all four were loyal to Jeremy Corbyn where others were not. They are not of a one ideologically. Even if they were, it would not be the golden thread that links their sackings.
Why? Because Starmer has not set out to purge his shadow cabinet of the Corbynite left. In any case, Gardiner, while a dependable servant of the last leadership, is not of it. His sacking has much more to do with his habit of undermining Starmer on Brexit, both in public and in private. Lavery, Burgon and Trickett do have something in common, however, and they share it with Dan Carden. All four are closely linked to Unite.
That link matters because of the influence the union wielded internally over the last leadership, not only via Len McCluskey but through his allies in Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, and Karie Murphy, Corbyn’s longtime chief of staff. Starmer sold himself as the candidate of ideological continuity but institutional change. He is kicking off that process by clearing out shadow ministers whose allegiance is to those who sustained Corbyn’s institutional hegemony.