Blair's first government comes into focus

Dream team: The Labour Party line-up that is looking for glory in the corridors of power
Click to follow
The Independent Online
This would be the look of a future government under Tony Blair after the Labour leader yesterday made the final adjustments to his election team.

The major changes were the punishment of the left-winger Clare Short for a series of minor embarrassments. Also, Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, was allowed to tighten his grip on Labour's top team.

Ms Short was moved from transport to overseas development. She initially refused this but then accepted it yesterday afternoon when, as a sop, she was offered a place on a new committee to finalise the party's plans to get people "off welfare and into work".

The transport brief was taken by Andrew Smith, previously Mr Brown's Treasury deputy, and not even a member of the elected Shadow Cabinet.

Mr Brown also secured the removal of Chris Smith from social security, where he resisted the shadow Chancellor's plans to revamp child benefit for 16-18-year-olds. Mr Smith, who is close to Mr Brown's rival, Robin Cook, the foreign-affairs spokesman, took the health portfolio, while Harriet Harman, who secured re-election to the Shadow Cabinet on Wednesday, takes social security. She is seen as totally loyal by Mr Blair and Mr Brown, to whom she was also deputy Treasury spokeswoman.

As well as Andrew Smith, Mr Brown secured promotion for Alistair Darling, who will shadow the Chief Secretary to the Treasury as his number two, and for Dawn Primarolo, who also moves up one notch. Both Andrew Smith and Mr Darling will attend Shadow Cabinet meetings, although neither is an elected member.

Mr Blair boosted David Blunkett, education and employment spokesman, by moving Michael Meacher, another left-winger, to a re-created environmental- protection post. This means demotion for Frank Dobson, a traditional Labourite who once again polled well in Wednesday's elections. He is left with the local-government half of the environment department brief. Further changes in the middle ranks, rewarding leadership loyalists for not standing in the Shadow Cabinet elections, will be announced today. Ms Short is believed to have furiously resisted demotion, refusing to accept the overseas- development post at a meeting with Mr Blair on Wednesday night, and only agreeing in the second of two phone calls yesterday.

The Shadow Cabinet changes were intended to be announced early yesterday but were postponed until 4.45pm.

Ms Short accepted a place on a new "welfare to work" committee, chaired by Mr Blunkett and including Mr Brown, Ms Harman and Frank Field.

Mr Blair's spokesman said Ms Harman and Chris Smith had swapped posts of "identical status" and that both would be designated "key campaigners" during the election, a label which has caused much resentment in past elections and which will be denied to Ms Short this time.

Comments