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5 July 2023

Labour anger grows over Wes Streeting’s media blitz

Party sources complain that the shadow health secretary was awarded 18 spots in the party’s publicity schedule to promote his memoir.

By Zoë Grünewald

Frustration is growing in Labour circles at the media campaign for the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting’s new book while other frontbenchers try to set out the party’s policy agenda.

Streeting’s memoir, One Boy, Two Bills and a Fry Up, was published last month and 18 TV, radio and podcast appearances were included in the party’s media schedule over two weeks to allow him to promote it. This apparent special treatment alienated Labour sources, who said Streeting should “wind his neck in” while other shadow cabinet ministers, such as Rachel Reeves, Ed Miliband, Bridget Phillipson and Yvette Cooper, help Keir Starmer to set out the party’s five “missions” for government.

[See also: “I’m feeling gently told off”: Wes Streeting and Dr Phil Whitaker in conversation]

Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, is due to launch the party’s education agenda or “opportunities mission” tomorrow (6 July). But according to a copy of Labour’s grid seen by the New Statesman, Streeting has scheduled more than triple the number of media appearances by Phillipson between 26 June and 9 July.

“This time should be cleared within the diary for education and Bridget,” one Labour source said, adding that there was a risk of the party’s message discipline breaking down. “Wes has effectively made this all about him. There is a feeling of ‘wind your neck in’.”

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It is understood that the Labour leadership was aware of the publicity arrangements for Streeting’s book and party sources emphasised that many of his media appearances were focused on his health policy brief.

Streeting launched the party’s health mission in May, which focused on “building an NHS fit for the future”. Sources claim that during this time the Labour leadership left the media schedule empty for Streeting: “The diary was clear for Wes’s health mission, but there is now a lack of message discipline.”

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Other sources in the party rejected claims that Streeting had been given special attention. One Labour MP suggested the criticism was motivated by the “green-eyed monster” of jealousy among shadow cabinet colleagues.

Streeting’s memoir focuses on his working-class upbringing and his journey into politics. Some within the party have also argued that the book lays the ground for a future leadership bid by shifting the focus away from Labour and towards Streeting’s “own story of social mobility”.

One party source said “it is not secret” that some advisers view Streeting as a future leadership contender. Others suggest there is a growing rivalry between Streeting and Phillipson, who has also been tipped as a potential candidate.

According to sources, Streeting “made no secret of the fact” he wanted Phillipson’s job as shadow education secretary in the last shadow cabinet reshuffle. Others believe some inside Labour are “paving the way” for Streeting to eventually succeed Starmer.

A source close to Streeting pointed out that he had focused on his policy brief through events marking the 75th anniversary of the NHS, including several opinion pieces, broadcast interviews and a visit to Trafford General Hospital.

[See also: Bridget Phillipson: “Childcare has to be part of a country’s economic strategy”]

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