Sir Keir Starmer carried out his long-overdue reshuffle this week, with an extensive change of not only the shadow front bench team, but also the more junior ranks. Although the big office holders have remained the same, we have a new Environment Secretary in the name of Steve Reed, and Angela Rayner takes over the Levelling Up brief.
The reshuffle itself was carried out smoothly, with no apparent fallout from any of the changes. It brought in a range of voices who are on the right of the party, such as Liz Kendall, as well as those who have experience from Labour’s last period in government, like Hilary Benn.
The rural perspective
Labour’s new rural champion is Steve Reed, Member of Parliament for Croydon North. Whilst Croydon residents might have a Surrey postcode, the London constituency is hardly what one might consider the rural trenches of Britain. He has been a strong campaigner of tackling fly-tipping, and hosted a community summit in 2017.
Steve Reed is not new to the front bench, having been shadow justice secretary for two years, and before that shadow communities secretary. An effective communicator, we expect that Mr Reed’s main role will be to keep the sewage fallout near the top of the agenda. We look forward to getting to know Mr Reed and hope that he can give us more time than his predecessor.
Daniel Zeichner was reappointed as shadow farming minister, as was Ruth Jones who has the shadow environment brief. Zeichner and Jones, are the only MPs reappointed within the shadow Efra team, with Baronesses Anderson and Hayman also staying put.
The CLA has a very good relationship with Zeichner who has established a solid reputation across the industry. Zeichner has visited members, and spoken at our conference and various CLA events, and we look forward to strengthening this as we move forward. Over the summer we met with Ruth Jones to discuss on-farm reservoirs and we look forward to continuing our work.
The new shadow ministers are Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins, who is the shadow minister for rural affairs, and Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy who takes on environmental quality and resilience. Perkins, a Blairite, formerly had the shadow skills brief and advocated for small businesses over the pandemic, so we hope that he is able to bring that experience into his new brief. He briefly sat on the Efra committee, while Hardy has an education background and was previously further education and universities minister.
Rayner takes on the levelling up brief, which is one of the meatier domestic portfolios. With the Levelling Up Bill currently going through the Lords, and amendments still being added like a game of Buckaroo, Rayner will soon have her time in the spotlight. Matthew Pennycook remains shadow housing minister. The shadow levelling up team has been harder to engage with than the shadow Efra team, but we hope that with Labour keen to win the rural vote, this engagement will flourish.
Notwithstanding any scandals, this is the team that Sir Keir has picked to fight the general election, either to be held in spring or autumn next year. Party conference next month will be the first real opportunity to see them set out their stall, and the CLA is hosting a dinner at the Labour conference with prospective parliamentary candidates in rural seats, which will further build on our engagement.