Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has referred to her “very frank relationship” with Sir Keir Starmer amid claims he tried to sack her from the shadow cabinet after the party’s damaging election losses.
Ms Rayner claimed she was appointed to her new roles because she wanted to be more “front-facing” in the reshuffled top team, after she was stripped of her roles as party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator over the weekend.
Amid accusations the Labour leader was trying to make Ms Rayner a scapegoat, it was announced late on Sunday she would be given a new role shadowing Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
She admitted that members of the public did not know what Sir Keir “stood for” before they went to the polls, as Labour looks to reconnect with voters after the party’s crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.
Ms Rayner, who was also made shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her the shadow deputy prime minister, did not deny that Sir Keir had attempted to sack her from the shadow cabinet.
During an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Ms Rayner said: “I’m not going to discuss the robust conversations that me and Keir have and have always had.
“We have had a very frank relationship and I welcome that, actually, I think it’s really constructive.
“And we came to a decision over the weekend of where both of us felt I could make the best opportunity and the best of my skills in supporting his leadership, and that’s what I want to do in my new role.”
Pressed on whether the Labour leader had tried to sack her, Ms Rayner said: “I’m really happy in the role I have got and I think the general public are not so much interested in my job but actually interested in their jobs.”
It comes after Sir Keir’s aide Carolyn Harris stepped down from her role as parliamentary private secretary amid reports she was involved in the bitter briefing war between the Labour leader’s office and Ms Rayner.
The Times reported that the resignation of the MP for Swansea East, who is also deputy leader of Welsh Labour, came amid allegations she had spread “baseless rumours” about the deputy leader.
In a statement, Ms Harris said: “Stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as deputy leader of Welsh Labour.
“I have enjoyed every minute, and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.”
Following the final results of Thursday’s English council elections, the Tories gained 294 councillors across the nation, while Labour lost 267.
Ms Rayner told the BBC: “What I heard on the doorstep is that they didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for, so that’s what I think our challenge is, actually.
“It’s not people briefing, saying we think Keir thinks this, we think Keir thinks that, but actually about what are we doing, what are our policies?”
She said this was partly because the Labour leader had “put the country first” and acted as a “constructive opposition” to the Government during the pandemic.
Asked if she had any ambition of becoming Labour leader, she told the BBC: “I want to get Keir into Number 10 to be prime minister because I know he can do a better job.
“I rule out at the moment anything that doesn’t get us into that prospect of me being the deputy prime minister, that’s what I want.”