Government reshuffle: Blair dismantles Prescott's empire

TONY BLAIR has slapped down John Prescott by using last night's Government reshuffle to break up the ministerial empire of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Although he ducked sacking any Cabinet ministers, Mr Blair showed a ruthless streak by dismantling the team Mr Prescott had built up at his giant Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).

Mr Blair has become increasingly frustrated with the department's performance, particularly on transport. The issue is rising quickly up the political agenda as the public loses patience with the Government over congested roads, privatised railways and the London Underground.

The most surprising change was the sideways move for Helen Liddell, the Transport minister, who switches to the Trade and Industry Department (DTI) only two months after taking on the difficult transport brief. Her relationship with Mr Prescott was strained.

Some insiders saw Ms Liddell's move as a demotion, since she attended Cabinet meetings in her transport role, without having a vote, but will not do so in her new post.

The new Transport minister is Lord (Gus) Macdonald of Tradeston, a former Glasgow shipyard worker who became a television boss in Scotland. He was made a peer last year when he became the Industry minister in a Scottish Office team now being pared down following the setting up of the Scottish Parliament.

Downing Street stressed that Mr Blair and Mr Prescott had agreed that Lord Macdonald was a "real achiever" who would bring huge drive and experience to the transport brief. To head off suggestions about a Scot being in charge of London's ailing transport network, he will be based in the Capital.

Downing Street has become increasingly impatient with the giant department, and regards its creation by Mr Blair on winning power in 1997 as a mistake. "It's an administrative nightmare," one Blair aide said.

Some Blairites wanted to break up the department, possibly by making transport a separate ministry with its own Cabinet minister. But Mr Prescott, who jealously guards his transport brief, fought a rearguard action against such a move. But the price he paid to avoid the humiliation of his department being cut down to size was to lose some of his closest allies.

Blairites have been gunning for what they regard as a clique of Prescott supporters at the DETR. Its leftist slant saw it jokingly dubbed "Moscow University" by Labour modernisers.

Mr Prescott was resigned last night to losing some of his key acolytes, including Alan Meale, a junior minister who was formerly his parliamentary aide, and Dick Caborn, his closest lieutenant. Mr Meale faced the sack while Mr Caborn was tipped for a sideways shift to another department.

Another of Mr Prescott's ministers, Glenda Jackson, resigned to enter the race to become Labour's candidate for mayor of London.

Last night's changes will be seen as a slapdown for the Deputy Prime Minister. It mirrors the reshuffle a year ago in which close allies of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, were moved from key posts after he revealed his continuing bitterness at not winning the Labour leadership in 1994, when Mr Blair succeeded the late John Smith.

Among the changes to be confirmed today will be the appointment of Lord Williams of Mostyn, a QC and Home Office minister, as the new Attorney General. He replaces John Morris, a veteran former Cabinet minister, who is 67.

Lord Simon, the former BP chairman who became the DTI minister responsible for the European single market, left the Government at his own request so that he can actively campaign for membership of the single currency. Lord Simon, whose job went to Ms Liddell, will continue to advise the Government from outside.

Mr Prescott hit back at his critics yesterday. He told Radio 4 yesterday: "I feel like the fox. It's open season on me at the moment." Last night he declared: "I'm superman," as he denied that his "super-ministry" was too big for one man.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
i100
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Sport
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all marksandspencer.com
fashion
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace