Keir Starmer appoints northern MP to build bridges with backbenchers

Sharon Hodgson becomes Labour leader’s new parliamentary aide as he seeks to improve relations with MPs after troubled reshuffle

Keir Starmer has appointed well-respected north-east of England MP Sharon Hodgson as his new parliamentary aide, as he seeks to smooth relations with Labour backbenchers after last weekend’s fraught reshuffle.

Hodgson, the MP for Washington and Sunderland West since 2010, replaces Carolyn Harris, who resigned earlier this week amid claims that she had stoked up tensions between Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner.

As Starmer’s parliamentary private secretary, her job will be to liaise between backbenchers and the leader’s office. Some MPs have complained in recent weeks that they felt neglected by Starmer’s team.

Hodgson will also bring understanding of the north-east, where Labour lost the Hartlepool byelection last week, and the Conservatives made fresh inroads in local council elections.

Labour announced several other junior appointments on Friday evening, as the Labour leader completed the shakeup that began in the wake of last week’s election results.

Peter Kyle, the Hove MP, will be the shadow schools minister, after Wes Streeting was handed a new role overseeing Labour’s child poverty strategy. Streeting announced on Friday that he will step back from frontline politics for the time being after being diagnosed with kidney cancer.

The leftwinger Andy McDonald will have a beefed-up role in Rayner’s new team, as shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections. Seema Malhotra will be shadow business and consumer minister, replacing Lucy Powell, who was promoted last week to be shadow housing secretary.

Other changes include a return to the fold for several MPs who had resigned for various reasons. Flo Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall, who resigned rather than vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit in December, returns as Rayner’s new parliamentary private secretary.

Olivia Blake, the MP for Sheffield Hallam, who stepped down over Labour’s stance on the overseas operations bill, returns as shadow minister for nature.

Starmer’s plans for overhauling his frontbench last weekend were held up for much of last Sunday by negotiations with Rayner about what role she would be willing to accept.

She relinquished the jobs of party chair and national campaign coordinator, and was instead handed the role of shadowing the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, as well as other titles, including shadow secretary of state for the future of work.


Heather Stewart Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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