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An Impressive Number of Women Join the New Keir Starmer Cabinet

As the dust settles on Labour’s historic election win, Keir Starmer, the UK’s new prime minister, has appointed his team of senior ministers. This diverse group, featuring a record number of women, is now responsible for delivering on the party’s manifesto commitments.

The ability to select cabinet members and assign their roles is a powerful privilege for any prime minister. Most ambitious politicians aspire to high office, which creates a dynamic where they remain essentially submissive to the prime minister. While prime ministers must ensure that ministers are accountable to parliament and maintain the payroll vote in the House of Commons, they also face political pressures to include certain colleagues in the cabinet based on their standing.

Despite these constraints, prime ministers have significant discretion in appointing their team. Even the supposed legal cap on cabinet size can be bypassed by giving some ministers “attending” status with a lower salary. A prime minister who has just led their party to a decisive victory, like Starmer, is likely to feel particularly empowered when forming their government.

Starmer’s top cabinet positions held few surprises. Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, is the new deputy prime minister and secretary of state for levelling up, housing, and communities. Her gender, background, and style complement Starmer’s, allowing her to connect with parts of the party that he cannot and helping to maintain party unity during challenging times.

Rachel Reeves has become the first woman to serve as chancellor of the exchequer, having shadowed the position for three years. Known to be on the right of the party, Reeves developed a strong working relationship with Starmer in opposition and now faces the task of addressing the government’s dire economic legacy.

Other key appointments include Shabana Mahmood as justice secretary, John Healey at defence, Bridget Phillipson at education, Wes Streeting at health, and Liz Kendall as work and pensions secretary. Notably, all but three of Starmer’s cabinet members held the same posts in opposition. Lisa Nandy, previously shadow minister for international development, becomes culture secretary, replacing Thangam Debbonaire, who lost her seat. Richard Hermer, soon to be ennobled and a practising lawyer, will attend as attorney general. Anneliese Dodds will be the new minister for women and equalities and will also handle the international development brief.

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