Monday, October 06, 2008


Reshuffle Surprises

I've probably written enough about the reshuffle but the full list, published today, reveals a few surprises.

1. Lord Adonis(pictured), fervent advocate of academy schools, who seemed safe in his niche for the duration of the parliament, has been moved to transport(albeit at a higher ministerial level), a brief with which, I would venture, he has no familiarity whatsoever, or indeed, affinity. The rumour that he has clashed with his S of S and therefore been moved by request from Balls to his patron, carries some credibility.

2. The four ringleaders of the plot to oust Blair in 2006-Chris Bryant, Sion Simon, Wayne David and Kevin Jones- have all been rewarded with ministerial posts. The plot did not succeed but it led to Blair having to promise he'd go within a year. It seems their reward has come once all the fuss has died down. Evidence that there is such a thing as a payoff, if not gratitude, in politics; you might just have to wait for it a little longer than you might wish.

3. The appointment of the capable Jim Murphy as S of S for Scotland, joining Paul Murphy(I guess no relation) at Wales and Shaun Woodward at Northern Ireland begs the question as to their need in the first place. With all those domestic functions devolved to the executives what possible reason is there to persevere with these two dimensional ministries? The time is long past when their residual functions should be grouped together in a single unit.

4. A point made by a few commentators, including Peter Riddell, is that the import of Mandelson has effectively drawn the sting of the so-called 'Blairite' rebellion. Miliband's feeble speech at Manchester had already sidelined his challenge, though he remains bookie's favourite as the man most likely to replace Brown, but Mandy's return and Blair's clear endorsement of the move, not to mention the rallying to Brown of Campbell and Prescott, scotches the nascent threat to Brown of any of the young pretenders like Miliband or Purnell. Indeed, some columnists are now talking of brother Ed Miliband, now at Energy and Climate Change, as a more likely contender.

The whisper on the Department of the Regions is that it would require legislation - so Gordon Brown is waiting for next year to put it through.

Still seems a bit daft to me though - what's to stop one person holding all three offices at once even without formally combining the departments? In fact, it would probably make the ultimate merger easier. And that's with the best will in the world to Paul Murphy, whom I think highly of, but I don't think he should still be holding down a cabinet job solely because he's the only Welsh MP who remotely carries the guns for cabinet level.
The Department of the Regions saga has got long beyond a joke. Blair was on the verge of creating one in 2003 but backed off at the last moment, apparently after civil servants told him it would require legislation. Now Brown has done the same, and the same excuse is being wheeled out.

What is really going here? Could it be that the Scottish contingent in the Labour Party simply can't bring themselves to scrap the separate post of Scottish Secretary, and are waiting for a Tory government to do it?
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