The moody-looking image, which was taken when the pair visited Seaton Carew on the election campaign trail ahead of the Hartlepool by-election, shows the Labour leader standing on the seafront with his hair windswept while Rayner stands several metres behind him, slightly out of focus.
The picture, which exists from several angles, was taken earlier this month but resurfaced online this weekend amid a fallout over the party’s less-than-impressive election performance that saw losses in former industrial areas that have traditionally supported Labour, including where this picture was taken.
The row intensified when Starmer opted to sack Rayner from her role as party chairman and national campaign co-ordinator, signalling cracks at the top of the party. It’s sure to rumble on for a while yet.
But, away from all that, people have been having fun dreaming up what a crime drama featuring Starmer and Rayner might look like – and, to be honest, with some of these suggestions, we’d tune in.
— New Year, New Dick? (@New Year, New Dick?)
ITV drama Broadchurch inevitably got many shout-outs (it’s set in a seaside town in the South West), with the programme’s name trending on Twitter as people compared Starmer and Rayner to the crime-fighting duo played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman.
Labour’s defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the Hartlepool by-election was the first time the North East constituency has gone blue since its inception in the 1970s.
The party also received a drubbing in other parts of the country, losing control of Durham council for the first time in a century and seeing its leader deposed by the Greens in Sheffield. Labour also witnessed heavy defeats in Rotherham and Sunderland at local authority level.
Starmer remains under fire over Rayner’s sacking, although Labour sources have stressed that Rayner – a former social care worker who hails from Stockport in the North West – would “continue to play a senior role” in his top team.
But it hasn’t stopped prominent figures in the party speaking out against the decision to remove her as chairman.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned him that it was “wrong”, while members of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s team were among those to criticise the move to “scapegoat” the deputy leader (unsurprisingly, of course).
The Opposition leader will look to reshape his top team as he looks to reverse the party’s downward spiral in England.
As well as undertaking a reshuffle, the former director of public prosecutions has also hired Gordon Brown’s former chief pollster Deborah Mattinson – who has written a book about why Labour lost the so-called “red wall” at the 2019 general election – as director of strategy.