(Bloomberg) --

The U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party sees Boris Johnson’s tumbling popularity and Conservative infighting as an opportunity to get on the front foot as they try to win the next general election due by 2024.

But in a moment that called for effectiveness and efficiency, leader Keir Starmer’s shake-up of his top team to capitalize on Johnson’s troubles started to go wrong almost as soon as it began on Monday.  

According to a person familiar with the matter, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was not briefed on the so-called reshuffle before she went out to represent the party on morning television and radio broadcasts.

“No, I’m not aware of any plans for a reshuffle,” Rayner said on Times Radio, when asked about the speculation that was beginning to build in Westminster. “I reckon that Keir would tell me first.”

Rayner had been briefed by the time she gave a major speech on how Labour plans to clean up British politics, after a slew of negative headlines over ethics and paid lobbying predominantly targeting Johnson’s Conservatives.

Boris Johnson Courts Edgy MPs Who May One Day End His Career

For Starmer, though, it was far from ideal that such an event would inevitably be overshadowed by journalists’ questions on the personnel changes -- nor that Rayner appeared to know very little about them.

The misstep comes on the same day that a survey by Ipsos Mori showed public support for Johnson at its lowest level since 2019. Labour are neck-and-neck with the Tories in most polls, but the party needs a sizable national lead to hold a realistic chance of victory due to Britain’s constituency-based system.

In another sign the shakeup is not going as smoothly as planned, Cat Smith -- the first person affected -- lashed out at Starmer on Twitter over his failure to readmit former leader Jeremy Corbyn to the parliamentary party. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.