Thornberry left out of Labour cabinet – as Starmer insists she has ‘big part to play’

Emily Thornberry has been left out of Labour’s new government after more than eight years of serving in its shadow cabinet.

The MP for Islington South and Finsbury was most recently Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow attorney general, having been his shadow international trade secretary for about 18 months after he won the leadership contest in 2020.

But instead of being moved into the government position along with most shadow ministers, the prime minister has appointed human rights lawyer Richard Hermer KC as attorney general instead, who, as a non-MP, will need to be put in the House of Lords to serve.

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Posting a statement on X, Ms Thornberry – who ran for the leadership herself in 2020 – said she was “very sorry and surprised” by the decision, but insisted her “personal disappointment” would not “detract from the amazing and historic victory” of Labour at the general election last week.

She wrote: “After eight-and-a-half unbroken years in shadow cabinet, a longer record of service than anyone else in that time, I have always worked my hardest to keep the Labour Party united, support our candidates across the country, take the fight to the Tories, and put a positive case to the British people about what we would do differently…

“I am very sorry and surprised not to be able to continue that work in government, but I wish all my brilliant colleagues well, and I know that Richard Hermer KC – a much more accomplished lawyer than I could ever hope to be – will do an outstanding job as attorney general.”

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The now backbench MP also said she would continue to give her “unstinting loyalty” to Sir Keir and would support his government “in every way I can in the years to come”.

(left to right) Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer during the Labour leadership husting at the ACC Liverpool.
Pic: PA
Image:
Ms Thornberry (centre) and Sir Keir were among the contenders in the 2020 Labour leadership race. Pic: PA

The prime minister was questioned by reporters on Monday over his decision, but gave little away over the reason for it.

“I’m putting together a very strong team based on delivery,” he said. “We got a very strong mandate at the general election – a mandate for change, a mandate for doing politics differently, and about service.

“Emily Thornberry has been fantastic. She’s got a big part to play, as has every single one of my now 412 Labour MPs.”


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Despite her long stint in Sir Keir’s team, Ms Thornberry is perhaps better known as a member on the left of Labour, having been a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn during his tenure.

Under Mr Corbyn, she served as both shadow defence and shadow foreign secretary, after he brought her back to the frontbench following her resignation as shadow attorney general in 2014 over a social media post about the flag of St George.

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