Sir Keir Starmer’s closest adviser has been moved to a new role in the shadow cabinet to act as Brexit minister Lord Frost’s opposite number, it has been confirmed.
Baroness Chapman was ousted from her role as the Labour leader’s chief adviser as he continues to overhaul his top team to avoid another disastrous by-election defeat next week.
Labour lost Hartlepool to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in May and recent polling suggests the party could be about to see defeat in another seat in its traditional heartlands when voters go to the polls in Batley and Spen.
There had been rumours of a fallout between some Labour MPs and Baroness Chapman, with some in the Parliamentary Labour Party blaming her for the party’s poor showing in May’s local elections.
She is said to be a member of Sir Keir’s inner circle, having previously served in his shadow Brexit team before he became leader, and will now be responsible for holding Lord Frost to account.
Baroness Chapman said: “I’m delighted that Keir has asked me to join the shadow cabinet, to help challenge the Government on the delivery of its post-Brexit promises and ensure a positive future for Britain outside of the EU.
“I’m also delighted to be joining Labour’s front bench in the House of Lords, and look forward to working more closely with Angela Smith, Dianne Hayter, Roy Kennedy and the rest of the team on holding Lords ministers to account.”
Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, said: “Having worked closely with Jenny for some time, I’ve been looking forward to her joining our impressive Labour Lords front bench team and the shadow cabinet.”
Following the loss of the former stronghold seat of Hartlepool, concerns have grown over Labour’s prospects in the July 1 by-election in Batley and Spen, which was Jo Cox’s seat.
A new poll put the murdered MP’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, on course to lose the heartlands constituency in Yorkshire to the Conservatives.
The Tories were on 47% – up 11% from the 2019 general election – while Labour was on 43%, according to Survation’s phone poll of adults earlier this month.
Scrutiny of Sir Keir’s leadership will intensify if he loses Batley and Spen, having overseen the crushing defeat to the Tories in the former heartland town of Hartlepool last month.
The Batley and Spen by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin, who won the seat for Labour in 2019 with a 3,525 majority over the Conservatives, was elected as the mayor of West Yorkshire in May.