What does Keir Starmer’s ‘Blairism on steroids’ reshuffle really mean?

Keir Starmer has finished a monster three-hour reshuffle, in which personal loyalties were sidelined in favour of a ruthless desire by the Labour leader to stamp his ultimate authority over the party.

After months of speculation about who would be up, down and sideways, we now know who the ultimate winner is: Tony Blair.

After a decade and a half of the Labour Party trying to distance itself from the divisive former leader, his apprentices are finally riding high.

There are now a whopping five former Blair Government special advisors – SpAds – in senior shadow cabinet roles.

Namely Jonathan Ashworth (Paymaster General), Hilary Benn (Northern Ireland), Pat McFadden (Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), Peter Kyle (Science, Innovation and Technology), and Liz Kendall (Work and Pensions).

READ MORE: Keir Starmer demotes Angela Rayner in bombshell move that could spark civil war

Was this ideological? Has Sir Keir been plotting a secret Blairite takeover of the Labour Party for years and finally succeeded?

The SNP seem to think so, with MP David Linden (who happens to be in a relationship with a Labour MP) tweeting: “This Labour reshuffle is proper Blairism on steroids. At this rate, I’ll be surprised if we are not invading Iraq by tea time”.

Sir Keir’s certainly known to have taken advice from figures like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, but I’m not sure that explains it.

Keir Starmer has always avoided being tied down too much into any one faction. His ideas are certainly to the left of Blair and Brown, but his desire for power and presentational slickness is closely aligned with the former.

Those I’ve spoken to on the inside essentially say the Blairite insurgency was one of correlation rather than conspiracy.

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Sir Keir is desperate to ensure Labour’s prepared for Government, so he’s promoted those with Government experience, such as former ministers and advisors.

That, by definition, involves promoting more right wingers than those on the slightly more idealistic end of his party’s ideological spectrum.

One Labour source said of Sir Keir’s decisions that he’d “scrapped the lightweights”, though another flagged the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones as someone who will be “a disaster”.

Angela Rayner was given local government as expected, but the thing that really stood out was Sir Keir’s brutal knife-wielding.

While there may be no friends in politics, Sir Keir seems ever more sociopathic than other comparable leaders.

Lisa Nandy, whose job was taken by Ms Rayner this morning, has in particular been given short shrift, going from Shadow Foreign Secretary to a junior minister within the Shadow Foreign Office Team in just two reshuffles.

Rosena Allin-Khan, who was once thought of as a powerful player in Labour and came second in the 2020 deputy leadership election, was essentially forced out after Sir Keir told her he would no longer have a mental health portfolio around the top Shadow Cabinet table.

Ultimately this doesn’t matter to the general public, polling shows almost no one knows who the previous lot were and even fewer will know the names of the current swathe, but if they get into power their ideologies and party political faction will matter a lot more, and it’s good to know what to expect in advance.

According to Tory HQ, this is Sir Keir’s 13th relaunch since becoming Labour leader in 2020. Unlucky for some, but I doubt it will make much difference at all.

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