Monitor: Night of the short knives

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The Independent Culture
Reaction to Tony Blair's eagerly awaited Cabinet reshuffle,

in which only the junior ministers were changed



IF MR Blair has won a tactical victory by doing less than predicted at the top level, has he made a strategic mistake by not acting as a harsher butcher? The short answer is that we won't know for at least another year. His biggest need is for ministers to do more to translate policy aspiration into tangible improvements on the ground. Individual ministers are only partly to blame; and reshuffling them is only a part of the solution. Perhaps politicians and journalists alike should now return to the more serious business of attending to the policies themselves, and the progress that the Government does or does not make towards improving the quality of life. (Peter Kellner)

The Times

HOWEVER WELCOME and overdue the culling of the middle and junior ranks of the Government may be, the real test of any reshuffle is what happens at the Cabinet level. This could, and should, have been the time for a restructuring of government. As it is, two rather good ministers, John Reid and Paul Murphy, are being wasted in second-rank jobs. Mo Mowlam is left in limbo, reviled by the Ulster Unionists and with what looks like a short leasehold in Belfast. Her move back to England could coincide with the return of Peter Mandelson. One of the brutal truths that Mr Blair has had to face is the second-rate nature of much of his administration. There are plenty of mediocrities, several duds and few obvious stars. (Peter Riddell)

The Mirror

TONY BLAIR'S reshuffle turned into a damp squib last night as the entire Cabinet kept their jobs. This will be perceived by many to be a sign of weakness on the PM's part. But it could also be a sign of strength. Mr Blair thinks things are going well, so why change it? He also knows that the main favourites for the chop represent the decent, honourable side of British politics and worked their butts off to get Labour into power. They, of course, will now give him their undivided and deeply grateful loyalty - while being kept on their toes by dynamic new junior ministers. Clever bloke, Tony Blair.

Daily Mail

WHAT SHOULD have been a swift and tidy operation became a clumsy mess, leading to a state of virtual paralysis in many departments. Delays in carrying out the reshuffle allowed some Ministers to advertise an unwillingness to be chopped, moved, or have their responsibilities reduced. Mo Mowlam and Two Jags Prescott at times seemed to be negotiating in public with Mr Blair about their jobs. Not something likely to enhance the Prime Minister's authority. Nor were the premature holiday departures of Mowlam and Blunkett. But the real disappointment of this sorry affair is that, having promised to tackle the stubborn remnants of Old Labour and the underachievement and incompetence in his administration, Mr Blair has signally failed to do so.

The Express

DOWNING STREET has been playing a pretty silly game with us all. If the Prime Minister knew all along that he wasn't going to reshuffle the Cabinet then he could and should have told us. It's a myth that there is a reshuffle every summer. Whatever the reason for pulling the plug before the summer - the noises off from Mo Mowlam, wanting to give Peter Mandelson a bit more time to say his mea culpas, or pondering how best to foist Frank Dobson on London as mayor - there is no doubt that ministers expected big changes. (Stephen Pollard)

The Daily Telegraph

THERE IS a strong case for changes in the lower ranks and these reforms may strengthen Blair's Government, especially if they ensure the promotion of like-minded modernisers. There may be something to this approach but it is not one which has brought stability. If Mr Blair never intended to change his top team he should not have allowed his ministers to be undermined by prolonged speculation. If he did plan big changes but felt unable to deliver them, he looks unusually timid. Whatever the reasons for the impression created, Mr Blair will struggle to emerge from this with his reputation enhanced. (Robert Shrimsley)

The Sun

HERE IS the news about the Cabinet reshuffle. There is no Cabinet reshuffle. How can Tony Blair have left the Cabinet unchanged after some of them have been at each others' throats for several weeks? When it came to the crunch, the PM sat on his hands. Blair clearly needs a holiday so he can recharge his batteries and sharpen his axe.