(Photo: The Mirror)
2020 has brought its own share of political news, both good and bad. In the UK, one of the biggest changes has been the resignation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his replacement by long-time member Keir Starmer. With him, comes a completely different Cabinet of faces, both familiar and unknown. Read on for a breakdown of who they are and a brief summary of their political leanings.
Keir Starmer – Labour Party Leader
Starmer comes as a more surprising successor to Jeremy Corbyn. Viewed by the majority of voters as ideologically distinct from his predecessor, Starmer has clearly made efforts to distance himself from his former leader, and has drawn criticism for motions such as the firing of former Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey after her sharing of a controversial article that claimed that Israel taught American officers to restrain suspects by kneeling on their neck. Starmer’s efforts to tackle the antisemitism that brought down the Labour Party in 2019’s election have led to him being criticised as too soft on the Israel and Palestine crisis. Even so, early voter polls suggest that Starmer is more popular among voters than his predecessor, charting a well:badly ratio of 47:23 in relation to his performance as leader 100 days in, compared to Milliband’s 28:49 and Corbyn’s 28:60.
But who is Keir Starmer? Before beginning his career as an MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015, Starmer was a defence lawyer specialising in human rights issues, and later went on to become Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2008. He later became Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). With a Bachelor of Law from the University of Leeds and a Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford University, Starmer boasts considerable legal experience and knowledge, which is likely what made Corbyn choose him to serve as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, especially in light of his calls for a second referendum.
While it is too soon to draw any significant conclusions about Starmer’s policies, so far he has proven to be a more moderate and less radical leader than his former leader, opting for softer stances on issues such as Palestine while cracking down on the anti-semitism allegations that have previously crippled the Labour Party.
Angela Rayner – Deputy Labour Leader
A more “soft-left” member than many of her peers, Rayner is another former member of Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, having served in roles from Junior Shadow Minister for Pensioners and later as Shadow Education Secretary. A former social care worker, Rayner identifies herself as a pragmatist, and has proposed new systems such as a ‘National Education Service’, inspired by the NHS. Rayner has also distanced herself from Corbyn’s legacy, claiming to be a socialist, not a Corbynite.
While previously tipped to be the new Labour leader and praised by Corbyn himself, Rayner instead chose to support Long-Bailey in her bid for leader, opting instead to run for the position of Deputy Labour Leader. With Starmer’s victory and sacking of Long-Bailey, time will tell whether this will cause problems in the future.
An ardent remainer, Rayner has in the past supported calls for a second referendum, and her voting record reveals that she has consistently voted against raising taxes for the working class and against reducing taxes for corporations. She has also consistently opposed military interventions in other countries, including against terrorist threats such as ISIS (Daesh).
Anneliese Dodds – Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Dodds is one of the more well-known faces of the Labour Party. Having graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University, a master’s degree in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Government at the London School of Economics, Dodds began her political career as an MEP for South-East England in 2014. She later resigned to become MP for Oxford East in 2017, shortly after which she served as part of former Chancellor John McDonnell’s Treasury Team, taking the position of Shadow Financial Secretary.
An ardent remainer, Dodds has supported the idea of a second referendum, and her voting record – though limited – has involved voting for higher taxation of banks, voting against higher taxes on the working class, for further EU integration, and for greater devolution to other institutions such as the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.
Lisa Nandy – Foreign Secretary
A Politics graduate from Newcastle University and a master’s graduate in Public Policy from the University of London, Nandy began her political career in 2010, serving as MP for Wigan. She went on to serve as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and Shadow Charities Minister. She briefly served as Shadow Energy Secretary to Corbyn in 2015, before resigning to back Owen Smith’s leadership challenge. Having come third in the 2020 leadership challenge – behind Starmer and Long-Bailey – Nandy was then appointed as Shadow Foreign Secretary, replacing Emily Thornberry in Starmer’s reshuffle of Corbyn’s former Cabinet.
Nandy differs somewhat from the aforementioned members, favouring a “soft Brexit” over a second referendum. Nandy has also been critical of states such as Russia, criticising former leader Jeremy Corbyn for not outright opposing them despite its oppression of its citizens in light of the Salisbury poisoning.
Nick Thomas-Symonds – Home Secretary
Thomas-Symonds is one of the newcomers to the Cabinet for many. Having graduated from Oxford University with a degree in PPE, he has worked as a tutor since 2000. During this time, he authored two books: Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan (2015) and Attlee: A Life in Politics (2010).
Thomas-Symonds’ political career began when he was elected as MP for Torfaen in 2015. Since then, he has briefly served on the Justice Select Committee, before serving as Shadow Pensions Minister, and later, as Shadow Employment Minister. Having resigned to support Owen Smith’s leadership challenge, he went on to accept a role as Shadow Solicitor General, and later, as Shadow Security Minister. With Starmer’s rise to power in April 2020, Thomas-Symonds was chosen to replace Diane Abbott – a long-time Corbyn supporter – as Shadow Home Secretary.
Thomas-Symonds’ voting record is somewhat typical of a Labour Cabinet member. He has consistently voted against military intervention in other countries, for EU membership, and against raising taxes for the working class. However, one key difference in Thomas-Symonds’ voting record is his support for a nuclear defence system, having voted in the past to replace Trident with a new nuclear system, marking a clear difference from his predecessor, who consistently voted against renewing Trident or replacing it with a new nuclear system.
David Lammy – Justice Secretary
Lammy has become an increasingly distinct member of the Labour Party in recent years, having been extremely vocal on issues such as BLM, institutional racism, and Brexit. With a master’s degree in Law from the Harvard Law School and a degree in the School of Law and School of Oriental and African Studies from the University of London, Lammy went on to work as a barrister, before being elected as MP for Tottenham in 2000. In April, Lammy was selected by Starmer to serve as Shadow Justice Secretary.
Lammy’s voting record is very typical of a Labour Cabinet member, being opposed to taxing the working class, supporting taxation on corporations and voting for further EU integration and devolution. However, Lammy differs somewhat from his peers in his mixed support for a nuclear defence system, as well as his more unusual support for military interventions in combat operations but being opposed to military action against ISIS (Daesh).
John Healey – Defence Secretary
Healey began his political career in 1997, when he was elected as MP for Wentworth and Dearne. A Social and Political Science graduate from the University of Cambridge, Healey briefly worked as Shadow Secretary of State for Health in 2010, before stepping down in 2011. He went on to serve in Corbyn’s Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, and was reshuffled under Starmer and appointed as Shadow Defence Secretary.
Much like his peers, Healey’s voting record is very typical of a Labour Party member, including voting against military interventions and raising taxation on the working class. That said, Healey has also consistently voted for a stricter asylum system, whereas his colleagues tend towards voting against such a system. Healey has also been at odds in the past over Labour’s opposition to Johnson’s Brexit deals, and has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the outcome of the vote being respected.
Ed Miliband – Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary
Perhaps the most surprising appointment to the Cabinet was the return of Labour’s former leader. Well known for leading the failed 2015 General Election bid and his subsequent resignation, Miliband’s surprise to the front line is surprising, to say the least. And yet, this move may be an attempt by Starmer to bring the party back to a more moderate left position, rather than the more radical leftist approach favoured by Corbyn, McDonnell and others. Miliband served as a link to this position, and a subtle indication that Starmer is working to distance himself as much as possible from Corbyn and the controversy that surrounded him.
Emily Thornberry – International Trade Secretary.
The former Foreign Secretary was reshuffled under Starmer, being replaced by Nick Thomas-Symonds and instead replacing Barry Gardiner as International Trade Secretary. A former barrister, she studied Law at the University of Kent, and went on to become MP for Islington South and Finsbury in 2005. Since then, she has served as Shadow Attorney General in Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet before being forced to resign over a controversial tweet. Under Corbyn, she served as both Shadow Defence Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Thornberry’s voting record is very reminiscent of other Labour MP voters, with very few deviations. Like her peers, Thornberry has consistently voted against replacing or renewing Trident, voted for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords, and voted against restricting third parties such as charities campaigning during elections.
Jonathan Ashworth – Health Secretary
An older face amongst the Labour Party, Ashworth has a fairly distinguished political career, acting as an advisor to Gordon Brown, then as Head of Party Relations for Ed Miliband, and later as Shadow Health Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn. A Politics and Philosophy graduate from the University of Durham and the MP for Leicester South since 2011, Ashworth’s place in the Shadow Cabinet was preserved by Starmer, who allowed him to remain as Shadow Health Secretary.
Ashworth’s record, especially in regards to health, is much like his peers. Ashworth has consistently voted to restrict the privatisation of the NHS, as well as voting for smoking bans and against the legalisation of euthanasia – the act of helping someone to end their own life. On other topics, this trend to vote similarly to other Labour MPs continues, from more EU integration to a wholly elected House of Lords, as well as a protection and preservation of welfare benefits and other support systems in the UK.
Thangam Debbonaire – Housing Secretary.
The MP for Bristol West is another older face among the Shadow Cabinet. A Management, Development and Social Responsibility MSc graduate from the University of Bristol, Debbonaire rose to prominence in 2016, when she was chosen by Corbyn as the Shadow Arts and Culture Minister, and later as a party whip. With Starmer’s rise to the leadership, Debbonaire was reshuffled and appointed as Housing Secretary, marking a noticeable promotion as opposed to her previous roles.
Befitting her role, Debbonaire is a significant supporter of the movement to end homelessness, arguing that the scale of homelessness “should shame us all.” In the past, Debbonaire has likewise supported cross-party bills such as the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016, which aimed to offer more support for the homeless and thus cut the rate of people living on the streets. Similarly, Debbonaire opposes the privatisation of Land Registry, as well as retaliatory evictions and unstable renting agreements to offer more stability for tenants. In other areas, Debbonaire’s voting record is very similar to that of her peers, voting virtually the exact same way on a variety of issues, from health to education.
Kate Green – Education Secretary.
The MP for Stretford and Urmston is another older face among the Labour Shadow Cabinet, having served as Shadow Minister of State for Disabled People under Ed Miliband, and later Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities under Jeremy Corbyn. Having resigned to support Owen Smith’s bid for the leadership, the Art History and Philosophy of the Arts graduate from the University of Edinburgh didn’t return to the Shadow Cabinet until recently, when Starmer appointed them as Shadow Education Secretary.
Green’s voting record regarding education has involved consistent votes against motions such as greater autonomy for schools, raising tuition fees beyond £9,000 a year, tuition fees as a concept, and ending financial support for students in training and further education. In other areas, Green’s record is virtually identical to that of her peers, from health to defence. However, she has made the more unusual decision to support legislation and motions such as replacing Trident with a new, more advanced nuclear system, as well as both for and against military interventions abroad and against terrorist groups such as ISIS (Daesh).
Luke Pollard – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
A Politics graduate from the University of Exeter, Pollard is one of the newer faces in Starmer’s Cabinet. Beginning his political career as the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in 2017, Pollard was only recently appointed to a position in a Shadow Cabinet under Starmer. Starmer has in the past been noted for his advocacy for legislation such as national marine parks and protecting marine life and the preservation of Britain’s fishing industries.
Like his peers, Pollard’s track record as an MP is very similar in terms of what he has voted for. However, Pollard differs slightly in small areas, such as voting for a reduction in the number of MPs in the Commons. In regards to environmental legislation, Pollard has consistently voted for measures to prevent climate change, as well as for the implementation of incentives for corporations and companies that lower their carbon emissions and switch to more green forms of power.
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