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By Paul Seddon
Politics reporter

Angela Rayner has been appointed shadow levelling up secretary, in a wide-ranging reshuffle by Sir Keir Starmer of his Labour team.

She replaces Lisa Nandy, who is demoted to become the party’s new shadow minister for international development.

Ms Rayner will remain the party’s deputy leader and will also take on the new role of shadow deputy prime minister.

Sir Keir’s reshaping of his top team comes as MPs return from summer recess.

The long-awaited refresh did not see changes to the most senior shadow cabinet ranks, including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

But there have been a series of changes to more middle-ranking roles, as the Labour leader promoted allies to strengthen his position ahead of a general election expected next year.

The changes also mean Labour’s front bench more closely mirrors ministerial roles created by a government reorganisation earlier this year.

Notable appointments include Hilary Benn, a cabinet minister under former Labour PMs Sir Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who becomes shadow Northern Ireland secretary.

The Leeds Central MP has held several front bench roles before, but has not sat in the shadow cabinet since being sacked by Jeremy Corbyn for rebelling against his leadership.

Liz Kendall, a defeated candidate in the 2015 leadership contest, becomes shadow work and pensions secretary, her most senior shadow cabinet role in her career so far.

She replaces Jonathan Ashworth, who takes on a role shadowing the Cabinet Office. Labour sources insist he will still have a key role in election campaigning.

Pat McFadden, who was Sir Tony’s political secretary, moves from his shadow Treasury role to become national campaign coordinator. He will also shadow the Cabinet Office.

‘Levelling up’ battles

Ms Rayner already stands in for Sir Keir at Prime Minister’s Questions when either Sir Keir or Mr Sunak is away, a role in which she usually spars with Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

But her new role now means she will also shadow Michael Gove, who is tasked with “levelling up” – a Tory campaign phrase that describes policies aiming to reduce regional inequality.

His department is also responsible for local government and housing, expected to be an important focus for both parties at the election.

A Labour source said she would continue as the party’s “strategic lead” on its package of employment rights reforms, for which she was previously responsible as shadow secretary of state for the future of work.

Departmental changes

There were also changes to reflect a changes to government departments made earlier this year by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

In a promotion, Peter Kyle has been moved from the Northern Ireland brief to a new role shadowing the government’s combined science and technology department.

Thangam Debbonaire moves from shadow Commons leader to become the new shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, whose international trade brief was merged with the business department, has been handed a more junior role shadowing the Cabinet Office.

Oversight of trade policy will go to shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, also reflecting another departmental merger.

The appointments were conducted without the wrangling that characterised a reshuffle following the 2021 local elections, when Ms Rayner emerged with a trio of shadow cabinet jobs after hours of talks with Sir Keir.

But in a letter marking her exit from the shadow cabinet, Rosena Allin-Khan pointedly remarked that Sir Keir did “not see a space” for her specific shadow cabinet role with responsibility for mental health policy.

In other moves:

Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood is promoted, replacing Steve Reed as shadow justice secretary
Mr Reed is moved to shadow environment secretary, as Jim McMahon leaves the shadow cabinet
Backbencher Darren Jones is given his first front bench role as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
Ellie Reeves, sister of shadow chancellor Rachel, also enters the shadow cabinet as deputy national campaign coordinator

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