Keir Starmer has given his backing to his shadow chancellor amid rumours of an imminent reshuffle, as the Labour leader nears his first anniversary in office.
Starmer said he had “full confidence” in Anneliese Dodds, the biggest name in his shadow cabinet who has been tipped for a sideways move or a straight job-swap with Rachel Reeves, who shadows the cabinet office.
However, several members of the shadow cabinet have said they do not believe Starmer intends to move Dodds, who also has the support of Starmer’s most influential aide Jenny Chapman.
Starmer moved to quash rumours about Dodds’ move, speaking on a campaign visit to a police station in Milton Keynes. “Anneliese Dodds has my confidence, she has my full confidence, she is doing a fantastic job,” he said. “And we are one team, and we have got really important elections in May.”
He said “all of the team” was campaigning across the country “absolutely focused on those May elections”.
Labour MPs have privately voiced fears that Dodds has not made a significant public impression and have been urging a change of approach to put a bigger name in the shadow chancellor job.
Replacing Dodds, who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow Treasury team, would be seen as antagonistic by the left of the party, especially if she were to be replaced by Reeves. Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, is another possibility for the role.
One shadow cabinet minister said Starmer gave strong backing to Dodds in shadow cabinet meetings and believes it is too soon to talk about moving one of his most high-profile appointments.
However, a reshuffle of some shadow cabinet and junior ministerial posts is likely, including giving a boost to some of the MPs seen as punchy media performers, such as David Lammy, Rosena Alin-Khan and Jess Phillips.
Starmer is set to ramp up campaigning prior to the May local elections, which include a tough byelection fight in Hartlepool where Labour is hoping to hold back a Tory advance. The Labour leader will campaign in the north-east seat alongside the local candidate Paul Williams, the former MP for Stockton-on-Sea and a local doctor.
Although Labour insiders have briefed that the party is on course for a difficult set of results in historically tricky areas, allies of Starmer are hoping that if they poll better than expected it will provide a much-needed boost for party management.
Two shadow cabinet ministers, Nandy and the shadow business secretary Ed Miliband, are set to publish books in the coming months setting out their own strategic policy visions.
Nandy’s book Where Next? will look at mending the UK’s reputation abroad as well as “writing a new national story at home.” Miliband’s book Go Big is billed as containing practical schemes for tackling everything from inequality to the climate crisis, from the Copenhagen climate conference to the first halal Nando’s in Cardiff.