Corbyn is gone. Pay attention.

No more pie in the sky policies, Sir Keir’s team have the expertise to deliver

With Sir Keir Starmer taking the Labour Leadership on Saturday there was a clear signal to the end of Corbynism, at least in appearance. As Sir Keir has picked his Shadow Cabinet, the old guard has been replaced with a quieter, more competent Opposition. However, the Labour Party still has the same membership that elected Corbyn and throughout the leadership contest, Sir Keir has played to them with a broad manifesto. It may be billed as the return of the soft-left but that has not negated the more radical policies still holding ground. Businesses need to understand the new driving forces of the Opposition.

Woolf Thomson Jones

Leadership Manifesto

Much of the talk around Sir Keir Starmer’s election has been related to the return of the softer left, but this is no New Labour. Some Corbynites, including Rebecca Long Bailey remain in the Shadow Cabinet and committed campaigner and former Shadow Education firebrand Angela Rayner is Deputy to Sir Keir. He had to win over a significant number of those who previously supported Corbyn within the Parliamentary Party and within the Membership.

Sir Keir’s manifesto provides some insight into his positioning. It includes many of the policies business found so unappetising and relentless from Corbyn. There is common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water. There is an increase of income tax to the top 5% of earners and a reversal of corporation tax cuts. The Party also remains committed to the strengthening of workers’ rights and fighting for social and climate justice. In many ways, policies not so different from the last few Corbyn manifestoes.

What is gone, is the rigid dogma of Corbyn. Sir Keir has immediately focussed on ridding the Party of anti-Semitism: an immediate apology to the whole community, something Corbyn could never muster. A clear promise to provide effective, competent opposition to the Tories might be seen as differentiation enough.

Leadership manifesto promises are a tool to win elections, but it does show what Sir Keir has had to do to win. With a new Shadow Cabinet mixing old, new, socialist and centrist, simply heralding a return of the soft left, pro-business Opposition is overly simplistic.

Shadow Cabinet

Out with the incompetent, in with the dependable. By all accounts the new Shadow Cabinet looks like one defined by professionalism, competence and loyalty. For many, not least the Party’s media team, the culling of the Richard Burgons, Barry Gardiners and Diane Abbotts will be a welcome relief. The Party has been dogged by the perception they were simply not fit for Government and their showings in Parliament and on TV displayed a breathtakingly consistent level of ineptitude.

The new look Shadow Cabinet is younger, more balanced and, most importantly, professional. The likes of Rachel Reeves at Shadow Cabinet, a former Bank of England economist and Chair of the Business Select Committee, or Anneliese Dodds as Shadow Chancellor, academic and shadow treasury minister, show an emphasis on those with a strong understanding of their role and a record of good performance in post. That extends to the likes of Nick Thomas-Symonds (Shadow Home), Ian Murray (Shadow Scottish), Andy McDonald (Shadow Employment Rights) and Lord falconer (Shadow Attorney General and Blair stalwart) who are capable, professional and intelligent.

Old faces return with Ed Miliband in the Shadow equivalent of his role under Brown at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and David Lammy, most recently the vocal backbench campaigner, back in Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Justice Secretary. Jonathan Ashworth, the highly competent Shadow Health Secretary remains as well as the effective Valerie Vaz as Shadow Leader of the House.

There are also stays of execution for Corbynites Rebecca Long-Bailey – who, after a not so valiant effort to win over the Unions and come second in the leadership contest, has been shunted to Education – Marsha De Cordova and Cat Smith.

There are tough times ahead for this team and their leader, it is always hard to be recognised in a crisis. Sir Iain Duncan-Smith found out to his detriment becoming leader just after 9/11. The impact of COVID-19 has already seen the Conservatives make Corbyn blush with their extensive financial support schemes. In the short term, Opposition will have to focus on constructive questioning. Long term, Starmer’s Labour policies will have to compete with and differentiate from a bigger, more expensive Tory state.

There is a genuine belief that Sir Keir can finally unite the party and represent a more credible option to the voters, one grounded in hard work and solid policy. Yet this is still an opposition rooted on the left. It simply has a cleaner look.

For businesses, the new Opposition requires extra attention. The new leaders in key posts have been consistent in their criticism of poor business practices. The Leadership manifesto itself vows to raise taxes on corporations and fight for worker’s rights. This is still the Labour party and its core values remain in tact. To assume the left’s drive for social justice, workers’ rights and the prevalent criticism of business has disappeared would be wrong. If anything, it has the potential to be more coherent, realistic and appealing to voters than ever before.

Corbyn is gone so now we should pay attention.

For a full list of the Shadow Cabinet please see below:


Sir Keir Starmer

Leader of the Opposition

  • Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015
  • Appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in 2015
  • Vocal advocate for a second referendum
  • 2008 Appointed Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service
  • Appointed QC in 2002, his main areas of practice were human rights, international law, judicial review, extradition, criminal law, police law and media law


Angela Rayner

Deputy Leader and Chair of the Labour Party

  • Previous Shadow Secretary of State for Education from 2016-2020, and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and Shadow Minister of State for Pensions for brief periods in 2016
  • Ms Rayner did not run for labour leadership, but instead supported her flatmate Rebecca Long-Bailey standing for deputy leader
  • Former care worker and Unison trade union representative


Anneliese Dodds

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

  • Served as Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury under John McDonnell
  • Member of European Parliament for South East England from 2014-2017
  • Senior lecturer in Public Policy at KCL and Aston University


Lisa Nandy

Shadow Foreign Secretary

  • Shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate Change from 2015-2016
  • Shadow Charities Minister from 2013-2015 until she co-chaired Owen Smiths leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn
  • Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tessa Jowell, 2010-2012
  • Former researcher for homelessness charity Centrepoint and Senior Policy adviser to The Children’s Society
  • Campaigner for Deliberative Democracy


Nick Thomas-Symonds

Shadow Home Secretary

  • Formerly Shadow Minister of State for Security, 2017-2020
  • Shadow Solicitor General for England and Wales from 2016-2020
  • Former Shadow Minister of State for Employment and Shadow Minister of State for Pensions during periods of 2016
  • Chancery and commercial barrister at Civitas law
  • Lecturer of politics in St. Edmund Hall, Oxford


Rachel Reeves

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

  • Former chair of BEIS committee. 2019-2020
  • Former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2013-2015
  • Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2011-2013
  • Economist at the BoE and British Embassy in Washington DC from 2000-2006
  • Strong Campaigner for multiple causes including Women in Parliament


David Lammy

Shadow Justice Secretary

  • Former Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills and Minister of State for Culture across Blair and Brown for a decade
  • Ardent campaigner for minority and faith groups, specifically around Windrush and on anti-Semitism within the Party
  • Called to bar in 1994 at Lincoln’s Inn and practised as a barrister


John Healey

Shadow Defence Secretary

  • Shadow Secretary of State for Housing since 2016 with considerable work on Grenfell and building safety, specifically private landlords
  • Shadow Secretary of State for Health 2010-2011
  • Campaign director at Trades Union Congress
  • Disability rights campaigner


Ed Miliband

Shadow Business Energy and Industrial Secretary

  • To be in charge of the Labour’s Green New Deal pledge
  • Former leader of the Opposition before Jeremy Corbyn
  • Known as Red-Ed for pivoting the party to the Left and opening up the membership
  • Television Journalist and Labour Party researcher before being an MP


Emily Thornberry

Shadow International Trade Secretary

  • Challenger to Sir Keir in the leadership election, missing out on the final round
  • Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 2016-20
  • Shadow Defence Secretary 2016
  • Shadow Attorney General for Ed Miliband 2011
  • Shadow Employment minister
  • Barrister from 1985-05


Jonathan Reynolds

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary

  • Former shadow energy minister, shadow transport minister, and PPS to the Leader of the Opposition
  • Served on Labour’s National Executive Committee from 2003–05
  • Trained as a solicitor
  • Significant Parliamentary work on youth and disabilities.


Jonathan Ashworth

Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

  • Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social care under Jeremy Corbyn
  • Previous adviser to Gordon Brown and head of party relations for Ed Miliband


Rebecca Long-Bailey

Shadow Education Secretary

  • Arch Corbynite and ‘anointed one’ that failed to win the Leadership election
  • Shadow Secretary of State for BEIS under Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Previously Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • Solicitor at Pinsent Masons, practising commercial and commercial property law including NHS contracts and NHS estates at Hill Dickinson
  • Practised Landlord and Tenant law at Halliwells


Jo Stevens

Shadow Digital Culture, Media and Sport

  • A supporter of local culture, hospitality and sport
  • Prior to becoming an MP, Stevens was People and Organisation Director of Thompsons Solicitors


Bridget Philipson

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

  • Between 2007 and 2010, she was a manager for Wearside Women in Need, a charity refuge for women affected by domestic violence
  • In 2003, she was elected Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club.
  • She joined the Labour Party at the age of fifteen


Luke Pollard

Shadow Environment Food and Rural Affairs Secretary

  • Shadow Environment Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn
  • Parliamentary campaigner on Carbon Monoxide and pollution
  • Head of Public Affairs for the Association of British Travel Agents from 2009 to 2014, and as a director at Field Consulting from 2015 until his election in 2017
  • Pollard worked as an Account Director at public relations and marketing firm Edelman


Steve Reed

Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary

  • Leader of Lambeth Council from 2006 to 2012
  • Worked in the  educational publishing industry from 1990 to 2008
  • A supporter of the Tidy Britain Campaign


Thangam Debbonaire

Shadow Housing Secretary

  • Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport in 2016
  • Significant work in the third sector with Women’s Aid and Respect focussing on domestic abuse
  • Campaigner for Youth and Disabled persons


Jim McMahon

Shadow Transport Secretary

  • Councillor since 2003 and served as leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Local government regeneration officer and latterly as a town centre manager


Preet Kaur Gill

Shadow International Development Secretary

  • Shadow Minister for International Development since 2018
  • Former councillor for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in 2012 and re-elected in the 2016 local election. On the council, she has served as the Cabinet Member for Public Health and Protection
  • After graduating, she worked as a social worker in a kibbutz in Israel and with street children in India


Louise Haigh

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary (interim)

  • Shadow Minister of State for Policing from 2017-2020
  • Haigh worked for Aviva as Public Policy Manager, responsible for corporate governance and responsible investment policy from 2012-2017
  • Co-ordinator of the APPG on International Corporate Responsibility
  • Vice-Chair of the APPG on fracking, and anti-Semitism
  • Local council youth service between 2006 and 2008


Ian Murray

Shadow Scotland Secretary

  • From 2015 to 2017 and since December 2019, Murray has been the only Labour Party MP representing a Scottish constituency in the House of Commons
  • He served as an Edinburgh City Councillor for Liberton & Gilmerton Ward from 2003 to 2010
  • Previously of Royal Blind working in pensions management, before being head-hunted by an Edinburgh-based internet television station (


Nia Griffith

Shadow Wales Secretary

  • Shadow Secretary of State for Wales from 2015-2016 until she resigned. Then she was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence from 2016-2020
  • Griffith was a founder member of a local Women’s Aid organisation and is a member of the National Union of Teachers and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
  • Teacher and Education advisor


Marsha de Cordova

Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary

  • Shadow Minister for Disabled People from 2017-2020
  • Prior to becoming an MP, she was the engagement and advocacy director at the charity, Thomas Pocklington Trust.
  • After graduating she worked at several charities including Action for Blind People before founding the charity South East London Vision in 2014
  • Campaigner for Disability and visual impairment


Andy McDonald

Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary

  • Shadow Secretary of State for Transport from 2016 to 2020
  • He has also served as both Chair and as Secretary of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ Military Special Interest Group and was a founder member of The Royal British Legion’s Solicitors Group.
  • Thompson’s Head of Military Claims for members of the British Armed Forces.
  • Lawyer for over a quarter of a century and being Senior Serious Injury Solicitor at the Middlesbrough office of Thompsons Solicitors, led the firm’s Serious Injury Unit


Rosena Allin-Khan

Shadow Minister for Mental Health

  • Shadow Minister for Sport from 2016-2020
  • After qualifying as a doctor, Allin-Khan worked at the Royal London and Homerton Hospitals. She went on to complete a Master’s degree in public health
  • Following this, she spent many years working as a humanitarian aid doctor
  • Allin-Khan continues to work occasional shifts at St. George’s Hospital alongside her political career


Cat Smith

Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement

  • Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter engagement since 2016
  • Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons since December 2016
  • Shadow Minister of State for the Cabinet Office since January 2020
  • Smith worked for Jeremy Corbyn and as a policy officer for the British Association of Social Workers.


Lord Falconer, Charles Falconer

Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales

  • Shadow Justice Secretary under the acting leadership of Harriet Harman in 2015-16Falconer became the Lord Chancellor and the first Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs in 2003 under Prime Minister Tony Blair and would go on to become the first Secretary of State for Justice in 2007
  • Minister of State for Home Affairs from 2002-2003
  • Minister of State for Housing and Planning from 2001-2002
  • Solicitor General for England and Wales from 1997-1998
  • He practised from Fountain Court Chambers in London and became a Queen’s Counsel in 1991


Valerie Vaz

Shadow Leader of the House

  • Shadow Leader of the House of Commons in the Shadow Cabinet of Jeremy Corbyn since 2016
  • 2001, she joined the Government Legal Service and worked at the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Ministry of Justice
  • 1984 she qualified as a solicitor and subsequently worked on legal issues for local government in London. She set up her own law firm, Townsend Vaz Solicitors, and has sat as a Deputy District Judge in the County Court on the Midland and Oxford Circuit


Nick Brown

Opposition Chief Whip

  • Opposition Chief Whip of the House of Commons in the Shadow Cabinets of Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer since 2016
  • Brown held several ministerial positions in the governments of Blair and Brown


Baroness Smith of Basildon

Shadow Leader of the Lords

  • Smith was a Minister of State in the Cabinet Office, incorporating the offices of Minister for the Third Sector and Minister for Social Exclusion. She was created a Life Peer in 2010 and became Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords in May 2015
  • Smith was a member of Essex County Council from 1989 and a member of the Fire Authority for the County of Essex
  • 1982 to 1983, Smith was a trainee accountant with the London Borough of Newham. She then worked for the League Against Cruel Sports from 1983 to 1995, becoming the head of Political and Public Relations. She was a political researcher from 1995 to 1997


Lord (Tommy) McAvoy

Lords’ Opposition Chief Whip

  • Held several positions in the Commons Government Whips Office, including Comptroller of the Household (Government Pairing Whip) from 1997 to 2008, then Treasurer of the Household (Government Deputy Chief Whip) from 2008 to 2010
  • He worked as a storeman at the Hoover factory in Cambuslang, and was a shop steward for the Amalgamated Engineering Union; following a succession of trade union mergers, he is now a member of Unite the Union


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