Blair turns tables in front bench 'clearout'
Friday 20 October 1995
and DONALD MACINTYRE
Tony Blair turned the tables on Labour traditionalists yesterday, propelling Shadow Cabinet newcomer Clare Short into the transport portfolio and sidelining her predecessor, Michael Meacher, after the backlash against new Labour in Wednesday's elections.
The move came amid bitter recriminations from within the parliamentary party over allegations that prominent lieutenants of Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, had helped to secure the surprise re-election of Tom Clarke, the spokesman for disabled people.
Mr Clarke, who came onto the Shadow Cabinet as Jack Cunningham, a long- time senior member, was voted off, provoked a wave of anger for undermining Labour's campaign in last year's Monklands East by-election. Mr Blair ignored the rebuff yesterday by naming Mr Cunningham as the new heritage spokesman.
The allegations were hotly denied by Mr Brown's office. But there were persistent suggestions that Andrew Smith, shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had canvassed support for Mr Clarke.
Mr Clarke backed the much-criticised Monklands council when by-election candidate Helen Liddell was calling for an inquiry into charges of nepotism. His re-election on Wednesday angered and astonished many Blair loyalists.
In what could be a protracted night of the short knives, Mr Blair also began a clear-out of frontbench middle and lower ranks. Around nine had reportedly been sacked or resigned last night in advance of a partial reshuffle of junior posts today. In another wave of "new Labour" appointments at the weekend, five of the 1992 intake serving as whips are expected to be promoted. They are Peter Mandelson, Barbara Roche, Estelle Morris, Geoff Hoon and Stephen Byers. Tessa Jowell was promoted last night from her junior health portfolio to cover women's issues.
Formerly in the vanguard of the "soft" left, Ms Short, the MP for Birmingham Ladywood, played a frontline role in the dumping of left-winger Liz Davies as parliamentary candidate for Leeds North East. Mr Blair has rewarded the service handsomely.
She will handle the delicate task of defining what Labour means by its pledge that there will be a publicly-owned, publicly accountable railway system. Mr Meacher was judged to have taken his definition too far.
Appearing in brackets under David Blunkett in the Shadow Cabinet list released last night, Mr Meacher will shadow employment while Mr Blunkett will take the lead as spokesman for education and employment.
The slap in the face will be compounded by Mr Blair's expected decision to give responsibility for preparations for the minimum wage to a junior colleague under Mr Meacher, Ian McCartney.
Mr Meacher will be left with responsibility for unemployment figures, training and health and safety.
Other high-level changes were confirmed yesterday. Margaret Beckett, who topped the poll, will take over trade and industry, while Harriet Harman spokeswoman, will take over the health portfolio. Chris Smith takes over the key social security portfolio from Donald Dewar, who becomes chief whip.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence's own witness contradicts athlete's version of events
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
Almost 40m gallons of drinking water discarded – because a man urinated in it
Peaches Geldof funeral: Private ceremony to be held at same place as her mother Paula Yates on Easter Monday
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 3 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...