Labour row as two Asian women in shadow cabinet lose advisers

Labour is embroiled in a tussle over advisers as it emerged two Asian women in the new shadow cabinet will no longer have their own personal aides.

Keir Starmer redrew a slimmed-down frontbench last week to make the roles more reflective of the current cabinet. Labour has said it will also mean fewer political advisers as the party grapples with insecure finances.

Two senior shadow ministers – Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister, and Preet Gill, the shadow international development secretary – have been told they must now fundraise independently for their advisers.

Although Gill’s equivalent cabinet role was abolished when the government merged the International Development Department with the Foreign Office, Gill is still expected to attend shadow cabinet meetings.

Allin-Khan, a practising A&E doctor, will also lose her adviser. She will keep her high-profile role on mental health under the new shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting. Both declined to comment.

One MP said it was “embarrassing two of the party’s most high-profile women have to go cap-in-hand trying to get support to do their jobs”.

A Labour source said: “The Labour party is reorganising to get fighting fit for an election. Decisions are being made based on election priorities.”

The source said the pair were not being specifically targeted for any other reason and that all shadow ministers would have access to resources.

Starmer’s reshuffle, which has been well-received across much of the party for appointments such as Yvette Cooper as shadow home secretary and Lisa Nandy at levelling up, also shone new light on his divisions with the deputy leader, Angela Rayner.

Over the weekend, Labour suspended Rayner’s director of communications, Jack McKenna, over a since-deleted tweet by a journalist, though the party said there was no presumption of guilt. McKenna is consulting his trade union.

McKenna, an experienced adviser who worked under Jeremy Corbyn in the former Labour leader’s office, has been closely involved with Rayner’s high-profile campaign on uncovering Tory cronyism but has told friends he has been hit hard by the abuse and threats she has received during their time together.

It is understood McKenna had been told by Rayner to take some time off for his mental health after the stress of the threats involving Rayner since Labour conference. While on leave, McKenna found out from a journalist that he had been suspended. He is understood to vehemently deny any wrongdoing.

One Rayner ally suggested relations between her team and the leader’s office had been significantly patched up by the end of the week, and that she had been involved in discussions about the more junior posts in the reshuffle.

Another shadow cabinet minister said Rayner needed to decide whether she was “going to be a Tom Watson or a John Prescott” – a reference to Corbyn’s deputy who was a thorn in his side, or Tony Blair’s deputy who had political differences but remained loyal and protective.

Speaking to the Times last week, Starmer hinted that the dispute had not been about personal animosity between him and Rayner. “There is no personal issue between me and Angela. We’re friends, we get on, we talk a lot. We bring different things to the table. The two of us make each other stronger. She’s politically astute and invaluable to me as a deputy.”

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