Banks job shows Blair is a sport

New Labour, new faces: Surprise names in government as unexpected MPs come to terms with victory
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The Independent Online
Tony Blair last night added a dose of cheek and wit to his new Government team last night, with the appointment of Tony Banks as Minister of Sport.

Mr Banks, 54, is one of Parliament's greatest wits and his appointment added colour to a long list of diehard Blair supporters.

MP for Newham North East since 1983, Mr Banks had a year on Labour's front bench in 1992-3 as spokesman on transport and environment.

Mr Banks, a Chelsea supporter, is a tough defender of animal rights and can be expected to play a leading role in Government efforts to ban fox- hunting, on which the Labour manifesto promised a free vote in Parliament.

The greasy pole of political advancement and decline was well worn last night as Mr Blair kept a careful balance between old and new Labour, the different parts of the country and the essential gender balance in a party that now has more than 100 women MPs.

But there were still some bastions of male domination. Donald Dewar's Scottish Office now has two Ministers of State, Henry McLeish and Brian Wilson, and Malcolm Chisholm as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, but no women ministers.

A better precedent was set by Robin Cook, the new Foreign Secretary, with the appointment of Baroness Symonds, the former head of the First Division Association, the civil service union, as a minister with special responsibility for equal opportunities.

With education a key priority of the new Government, Downing Street disclosed that several rising stars of new Labour had got their reward.

Stephen Byers is appointed Minister of State for Education, with special responsibility for school standards. Baroness Blackstone is Education Minister of State in charge of further and higher education.

Tessa Jowell, another close ally of the Prime Minister, is made Minister of State at the Department of Health, a job she shadowed.

Alan Milburn, who was shadow Treasury economic secretary, joins Ms Jowell at the Department of Health, also at the rank of Minister of State.

Alun Michael is made Minister of State in Jack Straw's department. He is joined by Joyce Quin, Robin Cook's former deputy, who was tipped for the European Minister's job.

That post has gone to Doug Henderson, who has been made Minister of State at the Foreign Office. Joining him are Derek Fatchett, a frontbencher for nearly 10 years, and Tony Lloyd, who was also on the Foreign Office team.

Working for Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary, are Adam Ingram, Labour's science spokesman in opposition and Paul Murphy, formerly a defence spokesman. Both appointments are at Minister of State level.

Dr John Reid is made up to Defence Minister of State, the job he shadowed in Opposition.

At the Department of Trade and Industry, Margaret Beckett's Ministers of State are Ian McCartney and John Battle.

For Environment and Transport, working under Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott are Dick Caborn and Hilary Armstrong, as Ministers of State. Dawn Primarolo is given the job of Financial Secretary, the post she shadowed in opposition. Joining her at the Treasury is Helen Liddell, as Economic Secretary.

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