Thangam Debbonaire has been appointed the UK's shadow culture secretary as part of a reshuffle carried out by Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party. In a direct swap, Lucy Powell took Debbonaire’s role of shadow leader of the Commons. The overhaul comes ahead of a general election expected to be in late 2024, which current polling strongly indicates Labour will win.
Debbonaire, the member of parliament for Bristol West, was previously appointed as shadow minister for culture, media and sport by the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016; she held the post for six months.
Priorities listed on her website include the climate emergency, housing and Black Lives Matter while her blogs cover topics such as the Illegal Migration Bill and violence in Sudan. Prior to becoming an MP, Debbonaire was a professional cellist and has co-written two books on the subject of domestic violence.
In 2018 she called for the statue of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston to be removed from Bristol city centre. Speaking at a Black History Month event, she said that the city "should not be honouring people who benefited from slavery". The Colston statue was toppled in June 2020 by anti-racism protestors following the death of George Floyd, and dumped in Bristol harbour.
Debbonaire subsequently issued a statement with other Bristol MPs saying: "We don't condone criminal damage and Avon & Somerset Police have our full support, both in their actions… and in their investigation.” Last year, four protestors were found not guilty of criminal damage in relation to the removal of the Colston statue.
Her appointment was welcomed by some culture commentators on social media. Hilary McGrady, the director general of the National Trust, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Congratulations… looking forward to working with you and the team on all things heritage, culture and tourism. With our incredible cultural heritage, it's surely one of the best briefs!”