Shadow Cabinet shake-up: Who will face Michael Gove at the despatch box?

Keir Starmer completed his far-reaching reshuffle of his top team this month. Starmer said the purpose of the reorganisation of the Shadow Cabinet was to present a “smaller, more focused” team that mirrors the shape of Government. This is the second reshuffle Keir Starmer has undertaken this year, with new faces appointed to prominent posts in preparation for the next election.

Facing Michael Gove in his new brief at DLUHC will be Lisa Nandy MP, who has been named as Shadow Secretary of Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government (note that ‘Local Government’ has been added to the shadow title after it was dropped in the renaming of MHCLG in recent months). Nandy takes over from Manchester Central MP, Lucy Powell, who has been moved from the shadow housing brief to become Shadow Culture Secretary.

Lisa Nandy has been MP for Wigan in Greater Manchester since 2010 and has held shadow posts since 2013 in the Department for Education, Cabinet Office, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Most recently, she has served as Shadow Foreign Secretary since April 2020. The move to Levelling Up Secretary for Nandy has been understood by some as a demotion but levelling-up is the flagship policy of Johnson’s Government and its delivery will be a key battle in the upcoming election.

Since taking up the role, Nandy has been clear on the importance of her brief to hold the Government to account on levelling-up, telling the Guardian:

“It is the battleground on which the next general election will be fought. It is also the battle for the future of the country.”

When asked in an interview by Kay Burley on Sky News whether the moves in the reshuffle mean that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is moving to the left or right of politics, Nandy responded “We’re moving North”.

She has been known for her strong voice on left-behind communities and a champion of struggling towns across the UK. In her leadership bid last year, she argued that to deliver change “we have to become rooted in our communities again”. This perhaps makes Lisa Nandy a good fit to take on the Government about their plans to level-up the regions.

The next oral questions in the House of Commons with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is scheduled to take place on Monday 24th January 2022 and we look forward to tuning in to the first session between Gove and Nandy.

Across the rest of the shadow housing team, Mike Amesbury MP remains Shadow Housing Minister, and is joined by Matthew Pennycook MP (previously Shadow Minister at BEIS), Alex Norris MP (previously Shadow Health Minister) and Sarah Owen MP (also Opposition Whip and currently a member of the BEIS Committee).

Lucy Powell MP had outlined a range of Labour policies on housing and planning during her short stint as Shadow Housing Secretary this year, such as reforming affordable rents to match 30% of average income; building 150,000 social homes per year; ending Right to Buy; giving local authorities new powers to buy and develop land; and establishing a new Building Works Agency. It will be interesting to see how new policies and approaches develop within the newly appointed team.

Moving over to the shadow BEIS team, Jonathan Reynolds (MP for Stalybridge and Hyde) has been appointed Shadow Secretary for Business and Industrial Strategy, with Ed Miliband (MP for Doncaster North) taking up the new title of Shadow Secretary of Climate Change and Net Zero. Alan Whitehead (MP for Southampton) remains as Shadow Minister in Miliband’s team, along with the new appointment of Olivia Blake (MP for Sheffield Hallam). Ed Miliband has been vocal about the Government’s approach to greening the UK’s homes so we hope to see a continued focus on housing decarbonisation in his new team.

Other Northern MPs named in the shake-up include Yvette Cooper (MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) as Shadow Home Secretary, Bridget Philipson (MP for Houghton and Sunderland South) as Shadow Education Secretary, Louise Haigh (MP for Sheffield Heeley) as Shadow Transport Secretary, and Jim McMahon (MP for Oldham West and Royton) as Shadow Environment Secretary.

The Northern Agenda has helpfully mapped out the ‘Northern-ness’ of both the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet, showing that 16% of Boris Johnson’s top team hold seats in the North while 50% of Labour’s top jobs are filled by Northern MPs.

The Government recently confirmed that the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, previously expected before Christmas, will be delayed until January 2022. We will be closely following developments as they emerge on this agenda and making it clear that improving housing quality and supply in the North will be a core component of the levelling-up mission and vital to meet net zero targets.

You can see the full new Shadow Cabinet team here.

Please do not hesitate to follow up on any of this with the NHC by contacting Anna Seddon (Policy and Public Affairs Officer) at