If you have been keeping up to date with the news recently you will have seen the turbulence and chaos within the British Parliament. Liz Truss has been forced to resign as Prime Minister after an attempt to impose radical right-wing, free market economics was rejected by market forces.
This represents the shortest tenure of any Prime Minister in British history, and there is a growing consensus that the Conservative Party has run out of ideas, with no feasible way for the Tories to win the next general election. The Conservatives currently lag 30+ points behind the Labour Party in the polls, suggesting a complete demolition of their Parliamentary party, and a landslide majority for Labour.
With the Labour Party seen by some as a ‘government in waiting’, it is important to know what the next potential government may look like. This article hopes to introduce you to some of the most important Labour shadow cabinet members as these individuals may well be responsible for running the country in the event of a general election.
Keir Starmer – Leader of the Opposition
Keir Starmer was born to working class parents in Surrey, becoming a young member of the Labour Party in his teenage years. After completing law degrees at both the University of Leeds and Oxford, he became a high-profile human rights lawyer, followed by the prestigious role of Director of Public Prosecutions. Following this in 2015, Starmer became a Member of Parliament, and he quickly made his way into the Shadow Cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn. Once Corbyn resigned in 2019, Starmer was elected to lead the Labour Party on 10 electoral pledges. Starmer is seen to be on the ‘soft left’ of the Labour Party, and has often described himself as a socialist, writing for ‘Socialist Alternatives’ and ‘Socialist Lawyer’ publications, and promoting Trade Union ownership in the past. Some describe his views as ‘red/green’ as he promotes a mix of environmental and anti-austerity policies, while others point to his patriotic political tendencies. As leader of the opposition, he has tended to sit on the fence on contentious issues, aware of the possible electoral damage of promoting a left-wing agenda.
Interesting fact – Starmer is a vegetarian, claiming that is better for himself and the environment.
Angela Rayner – Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Angela Rayner was born in Stockport (Greater Manchester), attending a state school before leaving pregnant at 16 without any qualifications. Later, she learned sign language and got a social work qualification, before working as a care worker in her early twenties. Later on, Rayner became a Labour councillor and a high-up regional Trade Union manager for UNISON. After becoming an MP in 2015, Angela has supported left-wing Labour candidates for leadership, including Corbyn in 2016 against Owen Smith and Rebecca Long-Bailey in 2020. This led to her serving on Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. Rayner identifies as a socialist, but highlights the need for political and ideological pragmatism. Furthermore, Rayner maintains a hard-line stance on law and order, voicing her preference for police to use forceful methods against criminals. She has gained notoriety for her direct communication style, most notably calling Conservative MP’s “scum” on 2 occasions.
Interesting fact – Rayner asks Hansard transcribers not to correct her speeches for informal grammar as she believes it is part of who she is.
Rachel Reeves – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Reeves was born in Lewisham, the daughter of two teachers, and joined the Labour Party at 16 due to the influence of her parents. After initially studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at University, she specialised in Economics. This led her to work as an economist for the Bank of England and the British Embassy in Washington D.C., before working for a banking and insurance company. Her political career began in 2010 with her becoming an MP and backing Ed Miliband for Labour leadership. Reeves was very critical of Corbyn’s leadership thereafter. Rachel appears to be on the centre or centre-right of Labour politics, remaining a member of the right-leaning Labour group ‘Progress’. Her economic policies in opposition have tended to focus on competence over ideology, with her suggesting conditionality on long-term state benefits, and claiming to be tougher than the Conservatives in reducing the 2015 Benefits Bill. She’s also concerned about the effects of mass immigration.
Interesting fact – Reeves once turned down the offer of a job at Goldman Sachs, despite the knowledge it would make her far richer.
David Lammy – Shadow Foreign Secretary
Lammy grew up in Tottenham in a poor Guyanese Christian family, with his dad leaving him when he was just 12 years old. He represents the first black Briton to study at Harvard University where he studied law, before practicing as a barrister and later an attorney. Lammy joined Parliament at just 27 years old in 2000 and Blair made him a minister in 2002. Despite nominating Corbyn for Labour leadership in 2015 due to personal friendship, Lammy has been a scathing critic of his leadership, in particular his weak stance on antisemitism. During the Brexit campaign, David became associated with passionate pro-EU politics, but he is considered a moderate within Labour. Politically, Lammy has always been extremely vocal in highlighting racial injustice, but he rarely speaks on economic policy.
Interesting fact – Lammy is known for his contentious remarks, for example talking critically of Comic Relief for perpetrating problematic stereotypes of Africa, and comparing the right-wing Conservative Party group the ERG to Nazi’s.
Yvette Cooper – Shadow Home Secretary
Cooper was born to a working-class family in rural Alton, with her dad coming from a Trade Union background. Her first job was picking fruit for £2 an hour, where she learnt to drive a tractor. Yvette went on to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, where she won a scholarship to study at Harvard to specialise in economics. Her career began in economic policy research for politicians including former Labour leader John Smith, and Bill Clinton, before becoming an MP in 1997. She served under successive Blair and Brown governments, ran against Corbyn in the 2015 leadership election, and has held senior Shadow Cabinet roles since. Yvette Coopers political stance is often said to be intelligent, rational and sane as opposed to ideological. Some say she fills an important role representing the ‘radical centre’. In her leadership campaign she proposed the introduction of a 50p tax rate, and claimed Labour didn’t overspend in office.
Interesting fact – Cooper is the first British Government Minister in history to take maternity leave, and is often seen to represent the ‘family’ and ‘human’ face of politics.
Wes Streeting – Shadow Heath Secretary
Streeting grew up on a council estate in London’s East End, the son of teenage parents. He was particularly close to his grandparents, with his maternal grandparents both ending up in prison for organised crime, and his paternal grandfather a traditional working-class Tory. Streeting went on to study history at Cambridge, and was very active in the student Labour movement, winning presidency of the National Union of Students in 2008, and becoming a Labour councillor in 2010. His sexuality also led to him to finance LGBT Labour. Wes became an MP in 2015. As an outspoken Corbyn critic, Streeting is considered on the right of the Labour Party, seeing left-wing Labour politics as unelectable and unviable. He takes a harsh but pragmatic stance on crime, and remains sceptical of uncapped immigration, but does not consider himself a ‘Blairite’.
Interesting fact – Streeting’s maternal grandfather claimed to be friends with the Krays, notorious East London gangsters depicted in the film Legend.
John Healey – Shadow Defence Secretary
Healey was born in Wakefield, where he lived and went to school before moving to study Social and Political Science at Cambridge. His early career saw him write for the internal Parliamentary publication ‘House Magazine’, and subsequently work in various roles throughout the charity sector thereafter. In 1997 Healey became an MP, and he worked in a few highly regarded non-ministerial roles under Blair’s government. John does not associate with any particular wing of the party, but voted against Corbyn in 2015 and 2016, and supported Starmer for Labour leadership.
Interesting fact – Healey was awarded £54,000 from legal action against the UKIP MEP Jane Collins after she claimed that he knew about child exploitation in Rotherham but did nothing to intervene.
Bridget Phillipson – Shadow Education Secretary
Phillipson was born and grew up in Tyne and Wear, joining the Labour Party aged 15, and studying Modern History at Oxford. Here she was elected to co-Chair Oxford University’s Labour club. Following this, she managed a women’s rights charity and entered politics in 2010 as an MP. She was quickly promoted to senior positions within opposition, including the Opposition Whip between 2013-15. Bridget is a big campaigner for local issues and she prides herself on enlightened feminist politics. It could also be inferred that she’s stands on the centre of the Labour party, typically voting against left wing candidates in Labour leadership elections. Phillipson is certainly an advocate for fiscal discipline and well thought through spending commitments.
Interesting fact – Bridget Phillipson is a roman catholic, and has consistently voted in line with her faith, such as against assisted dying.