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Nandy to face Gove on ‘levelling up’ after Labour front bench shake-up

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Lisa Nandy has been appointed shadow minister for “levelling up” as Labour leader Keir Starmer seeks to hold the government to account over its signature policy.

As part of a wider reshuffle Nandy will move across from her current job as foreign affairs spokesperson to shadow Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities.

David Lammy, the outspoken anti-Brexit MP for Tottenham, who has close links with US Democrats including former president Barack Obama, will replace her as shadow foreign secretary.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Reynolds becomes business secretary, replacing former Labour leader Ed Miliband in the role.

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Miliband will stay in the shadow cabinet as the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, reflecting his passion for the environmental agenda.

While Nandy’s move is technically a demotion, Starmer’s aides described the Wigan MP as “one of the big winners in the reshuffle”, given Labour’s determination to win back “red wall” seats lost in the 2019 election in northern England and the Midlands.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, has promised to revitalise the “left-behind” regions of the country with his “levelling-up agenda”, the details of which are yet to be fully sketched out beyond the promise of more investment.

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Nandy was one of the most vocal Labour MPs urging the party to accept Brexit during the last parliament, an issue on which it struggled when voters went to the polls two years ago.

Yvette Cooper, current chair of the home affairs select committee, becomes the new shadow home secretary © Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

“Labour sees this as a key battleground for the next general election and Lisa is seen as a great communicator for the party,” said one aide. “Keir’s been really impressed with her as shadow foreign secretary but wants to put her into this key domestic portfolio to make best use of her talents.”

In other moves, Nick Thomas-Symonds has been demoted from shadow home secretary. The cerebral Welsh MP still has a low public profile after more than a year in one of the most senior opposition roles.

He has replaced Emily Thornberry, a former leadership contender, as shadow trade secretary. She becomes shadow attorney-general, replacing Lord Charlie Falconer.

Yvette Cooper, currently chair of the home affairs select committee — and another former leadership contender — will become the new shadow home secretary.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary through the Covid-19 pandemic, replaces Reynolds in the work and pensions brief. His successor in the high-profile role is Wes Streeting, a high-flying Blairite MP.

The reshuffle got off to an uncomfortable start on Monday morning when it emerged that Starmer had begun the process even as deputy leader Angela Rayner was giving a speech on ministers’ conduct.

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Starmer’s last reshuffle in May — after a bad set of local elections — prompted a huge row after he tried to remove Rayner from her roles as party chair and campaign co-ordinator. After the tussle she emerged with two new shadow cabinet titles instead.

Early personnel moves included Jo Stevens leaving the culture brief to become shadow Welsh secretary. Cat Smith, one of the last “hard-left” figures on the front benches, stepped down as shadow minister for young people.

In a parting shot, Smith expressed concerns over the way Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader, had not been “readmitted into the Parliamentary Labour party”.

Corbyn has been sitting as an independent MP since October 2020 when he was temporarily suspended from the party after his response to a report into anti-Semitism in the party.

Kate Green was sacked as shadow education secretary and replaced by Bridget Phillipson, former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

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